According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations U.N.FAO, there are about 31,773,000 ha hectares or 48.3 of forests in Myanmar. An average of 372,250 ha or 0.95% of forest have been lost annually between 1990 and 2010. The organization states that within the period of 20 years (1990-2010), around 7,445,000 ha or 19.0% of the total forest has been cleared in Myanmar. Myanmar is one of the top ten countries that are happening highest deforestation rate in the world, and its rank is seven.
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The Rangoon-based Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA) alerts that Myanmar is meeting a deforestation crisis because of natural disasters (hurricanes, floods, drought and fires), human activities (logging, slash-and-burn agriculture, cutting trees for fuel, mining operations, dam building, clearing land for livestock grazing and oil extraction) and overpopulation. If deforestation cannot be controlled by government, the result could be very disastrous. It has negative impacts on environmental degradation and direct biodiversity loss.
Exporting timber and human population are the main causes of deforestation in Myanmar. The Global Witness Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) manipulated that Myanmar shipped at least one million cubic meters of timber into China in 2002. Between 2010 and 2011, government exported 864,000 metric tons of timber and got US$600 million from it. Moreover, according to the UN FAO report that Burma’s rural populations of around 70% or at least 30 million rely on forests for their basic needs in 2009. Government and people do not aware if they cut a lot of trees for their profits; it will affect on ecosystem and happen a lot of natural disaster in Myanmar.
The purpose of this paper is to show causes and effects of deforestation in Myanmar. In particular, the impact of climate changes is very serious problem in Myanmar due to deforestation. This paper will discuss the plans of government to solve these problems ,and it will also provide some possible suggestions to protect the forests.
The meaning of deforestation is cutting, clearing and removing of trees for various reasons such as logging, slashing-and-burning agriculture, clearing land for livestock, building dam. Sometimes, natural disasters can extremely destruct forests. For instance, Cyclone Nargis destroyed a lot of trees in Myanmar on 2 and 3 May 2008.
Myanmar is developing country, so the government and people are extremely depend on forests. They cut down a lot of trees for various reasons, but the main point is for short-term economic benefits (Putatunda, 2011). Deforestation can be caused not only human activities, but also natural disasters.
In Myanmar, government exports a lot of natural resources to other countries, but they got more money by exporting timber. According to the parliamentary Natural Resources and Environment Conservation Committee, Myanmar exports a lot of teaks by legal or illegal. The London-based Environment Investigation Agency claims that Myanmar exported 1.6 million tones of teak per annually to neighboring countries such as India, China, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia.
The agency states Myanmar got $5.7 billion by exporting 18 million cubic meters of wood log between 2000 and 2010. According to statistics, Myanmar has more than 16.32 million hectares of forest, and the area of teak is 24,300 hectares while the area of hardwood is 324,000 hectares. In Myanmar almost 1.98 million cubic meters of hardwood and 283,000 cubic meters of teak are used in Myanmar per annual. As a result, cutting a lot of trees for exporting is threatening Myanmar forests.
Overpopulation affect on forests because they destroy a lot of trees for their profit. In Myanmar, the population is increased approximately one million annually. The population Myanmar is 54,584,650 in 2012 .According to UNFAO, 70 percent of the Myanmar people live in rural area, and they rely on forests for their basic needs and sustenance and income. Similar to Indonesia, people who get less than US$ 1 cut trees to get a few income for short-term (Stolle, 2008).
Deforestation can be caused by not only man-made, but also natural disasters.
In Myanmar, forest fire is one of the main problems to destroy forests. Myanmar lost up to 10 tons of forest fuel because of forest fire. As a result, every 30 to 70 tons of top forest soil are destroyed in Myanmar. Myanmar is facing natural disasters such as cyclones, landslides, earthquakes, tsunami, fire and drought. They are also real threats to Myanmar’s environment.
Burning trees and clearing forest extremely affect on environment. A lot of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide are emitted from deforestation. Hence, the temperature of global is rising, so climate changes and soil erosion happen in Myanmar.
2.1 Climate Changes
A lot of natural disasters are threatening Myanmar’s forest such as cyclones, earthquakes and floods (Moe, 2009). Cyclone Nargis destroyed trees and livelihood of people more than earthquake and floods. Cyclone Nargis was the top deadliest and most caustic tropical cyclones to ever strike Myanmar (The New York Time, 2012). The cyclone notably affected a total of 37 townships. The UN predicts more than 2.4 million people were affected by Cyclone. According to official figures, 53,800 were missing, and 84,500 people were killed. It also destroyed a million acres of rice paddies, trees and killed three-fourths of the livestock with its seawater surges.
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2.2 Soil erosion and soil fertility loss
In Myanmar, soil erosion is one of the most serious problems, and government cannot be controlled until now, so the agricultural products of Myanmar are falling. The fertility of the soil will reduce if the surface soil is eroded, and it can turn agricultural land into desert land. To prevent soil erosion, Myanmar should preserve forests and grasslands. If soil erosion cannot be preserved, it will lead to flooding. Weather and agricultural experts argue that they get 4 inches of rain from the flood areas, but flooding problems never happen with this amount of rainfall in the past. Not only nutrient depletion but also ecological, social and economic problem can be happened because of soil erosion.
A lot of natural disasters are threatening people in Myanmar. Most disasters are caused by deforestation. So, the government are trying to reduce deforestation. They have three plans for that. First of all, they will completely ban exporting timber to other countries in 2014 (William Boot, 2012). However, it is difficult to stop illegal logging and exporting to China. The reason is China’s border is very close with northern part of Myanmar. Most poor indigenous people are relying on forest for their basic need. Although the government does not allow to cut trees, they may do continue, but their strategic is a few positive effects on stopping illegal logging and exporting to not only China but also other countries. The second is reforestation. Every June or July, the government order to plant trees in the whole country. Moreover, the government has dictated its citizen between the ages of 11 and 60 must plant five trees per annually in China. The government mentions that the result of their program is they have been planted at least one billion trees since 1982. Although the government of China’s plan succeed, in Myanmar, their programme failed since after planting trees, nobody care about them. In the people’s mind, their responsibility is just planting trees. The last strategy is collaboration with UN organization . It established The National Commission for Environment Affairs(NCEA) which purpose is to support the environmental protection and reduce the environmental degradation. The government expects this collaboration can prevent deforestation in Myanmar. The best solution is giving job to poor people. If they have enough money for their basic need, they will not destroy the forests.
They will not care how many disasters happen and the government announces the rules because money is more important than retaining the environment for them. Furthermore, recycling and reusing items are also the best solution. For example, industries are using a lot of bamboo to produce paper. If people and students reuse the recycling paper, they may reduce using bamboo. These solutions may decline deforestation in Myanmar.
In conclusion, Myanmar was covered a lot of forests in the past, but nowadays, the coverage of forests decreased significanly in Myanmar. Exporting teaks and overpopulation are the main causes to be facing deforestation in Myanmar. Myanmar is poor country, so government budget depend on exporting teaks to other countries. Nearly 283,000 cubic meters of teak and 1,98 0,000 cubic meters of hardwood are used for exporting in Myanmar per year. Increasing population is also the main problem. Approximately one million people are incresing per annually. Most of them are poor, so they rely on forests for their basic needs. The result of destroying forests is emitting a lot of greenhouse gases. As a result the temperature is rising, and it affects on climate and soil of Myanmar. By changing climate, a lot of natural disasters are happening in Myanmar such as Cyclone Nargis, earthquakes, floods and drought. Cyclone Nargis destroyed a lot of trees and affected more than 2.4 million people, and it was nightmare for people. Myanmar has no many good place for agriculture due to deforestation. Government tried to solve deforestation , but it did not affect on the problem. Reducing unemployments and recycling items may prevent destroying the forests. If the government cannot control deforestaionthe, a lot of extreme natural disasters will occur in Myanmar. If there is no enough trees, the temperature will be higher and higher, and the death rate of people will sharply increase in hot season. Health problems and economy problems will also happen. It is believe that if there is no trees, animals can not survive. If there is no animals, all people cannot also survive. By maintaining the environment, the world will be beautiful.
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