Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Government urged to make Gwa Island a nature reserve

An environment advocate called on the government to declare Rakhine State’s Gwa Island a nature reserve due to its rich biological diversity.

A view of Mein-ma-hla Kyun wildlife sanctuary in Bogale township, Ayeyarwady Region. The Myanmar TimesA view of Mein-ma-hla Kyun wildlife sanctuary in Bogale township, Ayeyarwady Region. The Myanmar Times

The 50-acre island is about 45 minutes by motor boat from Gwa township in Thandwe district in Rakhine State, according to Dr Maung Maung Kyi, head of the Rakhine Coastal Region Conservation Association.

“Processes to declare Gwa Island as a nature reserve was started since the previous government…but the move has since lost momentum,” he told The Myanmar Times on Sunday.

“In April 2017, we met with the Rakhine State Minister when he came to the town. He assured us that the private sector will not be allowed to develop the island. If state government could put a little bit effort, it would become a nature reserve,” he added.

Dr Maung Maung Kyi said among the 40 protected areas in Myanmar, there is only one in Rakhine and that is the Yoma Elephant Reserve.

“Gwa Island is a place that needs immediate protection as we can study everything there. It also plays an important part in research,” said U Win Maung, a project manager of Worldview International Foundation who carried out the tidal forest conservation measures.

Because of the existence of coral reefs and sea grass, Gwa Island is a sanctuary for rare fish species like Dugong and Parrot Fishes. Bonzai tidal trees and coastal rocks are abundant around the Island and so, it still has a good ecosystem, said U Win Maung.

Dr Maung Maung Kyi underscored the urgent need to declare the island a nature reserve while it is still pristine and uninhabited.

“If we are going to protect it, we have to start doing so as not much damage has been done yet. If people start to settle there, it would be more difficult,” he said. “There are not many residential islands in Rakhine State. The island got a good ecosystem, has many nice sceneries, and clear water and white sand like Ngapali.”

The Forest Department has set plans for the past two years to declare Gwa Island as nature reserve but has not been able to do so, said U Oakkar, head of the Forest Department of Thandwe district.

“It’s been a long time to declare Gwa Island as Natural Reserve and protect it. The plans were there since last two years. But no action has been done. The island may not too damaged but it needs protection,’’ said U Oakkar.

Among the protected areas in Myanmar are Khakaborazi National Park, Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary, Hukaung Valley Tiger Reserve, Mount Victoria National Park, Rakhine Yoma Elephant Reserve, Moe Yun Gyi Wetland Sanctuary, Inlay Lake Wetland Sanctuary, and Mein-ma-hla Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary.