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Without costly remedies, Inle Lake could dry up again

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Burma’s Inle Lake in Shan State might dry up again for a second year because of little progress on conservation preservation, according to a conservation group and a local political party.

Long boats marooned in a section of Inle Lake, Burma's second-largest lake, which is in danger of drying up because of silt and water shortages. Photo : MizzimaInle Lake in Yawnghwe in Shan State is the second largest lake in Burma and a premier tourist attraction and pilgrimage site.

Two groups, the Forest Resource Environment and Development Association (FREDA), and Inn, a local political party, issued the warning.

FREDA chairman U Ohn told Mizzima that little effective preventive conservation work has been done and there has been a lack of promised foreign aid. ‘This is a cash crunch problem’, he said.

Inn National Development Party (INDP) Shan State Lower House MP Win Myint told Mizzima: ‘We are in the same situation we had before. The water in the lake is only one and half feet deep at Yawnghwe and Phaungdaw Seik. You can see the lake bed while you are traveling on the lake. Motorboats have difficulty in mooring at Phaungdawoo pier’.

The average depth of the lake is about 7 feet. The maximum depth is about 12 feet in summer.

In 2008, the lake dried up and shrunk from 40 square miles to about 23 square miles.

U Ohn said that he was disappointed by the failure to address the problem.

‘The scholars and academics have submitted their papers on this work’, he said. ‘But the funding for this work must be provided by either government or foreign donors. We have only limited financial resource of 6.6 million kyat (US$ 75,000).

‘We can do only minor work. The foreign donors are just giving lip service but not actually giving money to us. I am disappointed with the project’, he said. A local domestic fund for Inle Lake was raised by donations from local hotels, restaurants and private donors.

Stilt houses on Inle Lake in southern Shan State with the aqua-culture islet used to grow tomatoes. The lake, in danger of drying up for a second year, is a major tourist attraction and important cultural center. Photo : MizzimaFREDA estimated about US$ 50 million (45 billion kyat) is needed for the conservation project. The European Union EU earmarked 400 million euro for environmental conservation work in five Southeast Asian countries. About seven months ago, FREDA asked the EU for US$ 60,000 for survey work but it has not yet received a reply.

U Ohn said the causes are well known. ‘Hotels and restaurants in the area must do proper waste disposal management in their businesses’, he said. ‘They should not discard waste into the lake, and they should convert their waste into organic fertilizer. Also they must build proper toilets. The most important thing is a buffer zone in which we must grow trees and do reforestation work. In farming too, the farmers should use organic fertilizer instead of chemical ones. The chemicals used in growing tomatoes on floating islets do serious damage to the environment.

‘The inlet source of Inle Lake is the catchment area around the lake and it carries silt. So the lake cannot hold water for a long time and it can easily dry up. We must control the inlet and outlet of water in the lake. The inlet water must be clean and free from silt. At the same time, the outlet water should not be more than the desired amount’, he said.

FREDA is a nongovernmental organization in Burma that works for environment protection and conservation. Currently, it is working on reforestation of mangrove forests in the Cyclone Nargis-hit Irrawaddy delta region.

INDP MP Win Myint said the party has proposed a plan to plant trees up to 20 miles around the lake and the creation of a reservoir to supply clean water for the lake.

‘We can do this work as a mass movement with volunteers’, he said. It would be good to get foreign donations, he said, but the effort can’t depend on donations.

‘This lake is the lifeline of our local people so we have to do this work even it takes 10 or 20 years to complete. We are determined to do this work’, he said.

U Ohn said that he was frustrated to see weak coordination among the agriculture, forest, irrigation and fishery departments, but he was glad to see the formation of a government environment and economic research working group.

Currently, local authorities are engaged in dredging work in the lake and building embankments.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 12 March 2011 09:43 )  

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