Myanmar’s environmental administration facing challenges – needs assessment carried out with Finland’s support

Myanmar’s environmental administration faces an enormous challenge as the country’s economy opens up. Last year, Finland supported an assessment to identify the administration’s development needs, carried out in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Myanmar’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining are important for Myanmar’s development and economic growth. This has led to a rapid depletion of the country’s natural resources and a worsening of the environmental problems.

Myanmar’s environmental administration faces an enormous challenge as the country's economy opens up. Last year, Finland supported an assessment to identify the administration’s development needs, carried out in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Myanmar’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.
Myanmar’s environmental administration faces an enormous challenge as the country’s economy opens up. Photo: Myanmar Environmental Conservation Department.

The total forested area in Myanmar is fast reducing due to logging, while fish stocks have declined significantly due to overfishing. The country’s unmanaged urbanization has brought its own problems, with the challenges faced by the waste management services highly visible on the streets.

Support for new legislation and guidance

Myanmar’s environmental administration does not currently have sufficient capacity to effectively respond to all the environmental issues the country faces.

In response, a number of development partners have stepped in to provide support in recent years. There have been some notable successes, including the introducing of new procedure and guidelines on environmental impact assessments (EIA).

Last year, Finland, along with Myanmar’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation and UNDP, carried out an extensive assessment of the measures required to strengthen the country’s environmental administration. Finland allocated a total of EUR 200,000 towards the project.

Until now, Myanmar’s rapid economic growth has been underpinned by its mineral reserves. Mine in Dawei in the Tanintharyi region, southern Myanmar. Photo: Myanmar Environmental Conservation Department
Until now, Myanmar’s rapid economic growth has been underpinned by its mineral reserves. Mine in Dawei in the Tanintharyi region, southern Myanmar. Photo: Myanmar Environmental Conservation Department

The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) led the review. The objective was to establish a basis for systematic and coordinated collaboration between stakeholders that would serve as a road map towards the creation of an environmental administration that is fit for purpose.

Going forward, Finland’s cooperation in the area of natural resources will focus on sustainable forest management.

What were the assessment findings?

The assessment findings confirms earlier assumptions of the current situation, namely, that ultimately, the challenges relate to good governance amidst a complex and rapidly-evolving operating environment. Currently, the environmental authorities lack the necessary expertise, staff and funding.

For example, the practical implementation of the environmental impact assessment procedure will be difficult as, currently, the authorities do not have the required resources and expertise to process them. Information management systems are not up-to-date and the necessary environmental data is often either non-existent or not accessible to support decision making.

It is difficult for people to access reliable information on the state of the environment as well as future development plans and proposals impacting on it, and the civil society continue to have limited opportunities for influencing decision making. Generally, environmental awareness remains low and people are often not necessarily aware of the impact on their activities.

Finland supported a needs assessment carried out by the Myanmar Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation to allow the country to make sustainable use of its natural resources. Searching for gold. Photo: Yaw Bawm Mangshang/Diplomatic Mission of Finland
Searching for gold. Finland supported a needs assessment to allow the country to make sustainable use of its natural resources. Photo: Yaw Bawm Mangshang/Diplomatic Mission of Finland

In administrative terms, in order to have effective measures in place to protect Myanmar’s environment, coordinated planning, wide ranging cooperation and participatory decision making are required. Myanmar is yet to establish a comprehensive environmental protection policy, coherent environmental legislation and the necessary institutional structures.

Assessment benefits felt

The environmental needs assessment  has already been utilised in two strategically important processes; to support the ministry’s environmental conservation department’s strategic planning and in the drafting of a broader national environmental policy supported by UNDP.

The aim of the national environmental policy is to ensure that environmental considerations are taken into account in all decision making and that the required expertise and resources are in place to support this. A further aim is to facilitate participation by civil society and the private sector in promoting sustainable development.

It is expected that the national environment policy will be completed in the coming months.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Finland. Date: 13 May, 2016

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