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  • Archive for December, 2012

    Can Myanmar protect its forests after sanctions are dropped?

    2012 - 12.11

    There has been a lot of cautionary articles warning of the potential threats to Myanmar’s (Burma’s) forests that could occur as a result of the influx of foreign investment into the country. However, we believe that foreign forestry investment can have a very positive impact and could also enable the locals to adopt more sustainable farming and forestry management methods.

    During the country’s previous incarnation as a dictatorship with a despicable human rights records, the West introduced sanctions. These sanctions, as they often do, resulted in intense poverty among the local population. As a result, many Burmese resorted to unsustainable forestry practices, as well as slash and burn approaches to clearing land for agriculture.

    On the other hand, the lack of cash may also have helped to protect the country’s hundreds of thousands of square miles on natural forests. With no foreign investment, the country couldn’t build the infrastructure it needed to develop these regions.

    However, this week, President Obama has made history by being the first US president to visit the country and his timing coincides with the removal of many of the sanctions. Myanmar will now be open to foreign investors, which some fear will put its natural environmental risk, especially in light of reports that illegal logging is still common in parts of the country.

    For us, the jury is still out on whether the drop of the sanctions will lead to Myanmar allowing its forests to be destroyed even quicker than they are already. We would like to think that the foreign investment will be spent on educating locals about the benefits of sustainable forestry projects, that safeguard the future of the industry for the million half a million locals who rely on the forests for their livelihoods.