Myanmar lake named biosphere reserve

YANGON, 2 August 2017: Myanmar’s efforts to gain UNESCO recognition for natural and heritage sites sees the country’s largest freshwater lake designated a “Biosphere Reserve”.

It joins Inle Lake, in Shan State, which gained the same status from UNESCO in 2015.

Myanmar Tourism Marketing said the latest recognition would encourage efforts to gain World Heritage status for a number of sites around the country.

Credit Myanmar Tourism Marketing

“It is yet another nod to the huge potential of tourism in Myanmar,” MTM said in a statement released at the weekend.

Indawgyi Lake in Kachin State, the largest freshwater lake in the country and the third largest in Southeast Asia, spans  an area of 133,715 hectares.

The Biosphere Reserve of Indawgyi Lake includes the lake and surrounding wetlands and forest for a distance of about 15 km. The reserve is also home to more than 160 bird species — some of which are globally threatened water birds — as well as turtle species, endemic fish, mammals, reptiles and primates.

Every year in the fall, migratory birds from as far as Siberia visit the area for breeding around the area within Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary.

On the World Heritage front Phyu Ancient cities (the remains of three brick, walled and moated cities of Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra) were listed as a World Heritage site in 2014.

Indawgyi Lake in Kachin State. Credit Wanderlust Travel Myanmar.

Gaining World Heritage status for the pagodas of Bagan is also underway with a decision likely either in 2018 or 2019.

UNESCO’s World Heritage List comprising 721 exceptional cultural and natural sites in 124 countries.

Other sites besides Bagan are in the process of applying for World Heritage status, which could take up to five years to complete.

They include the Kuthodaw Inscription Shrines in Mandalay, the Myazedi Stone Inscription in Bagan, which includes an inscription in four languages, Pyu, Mon, Myanmar and Pali, on each of the four sides of the column and the The Golden Letter from 1756 of the Burmese King Alaungphaya to King George II of Great Britain.

In total 14 other places in Myanmar have been submitted to the so-called ‘Tentative List’ including Bagan  and the lesser-known Mrauk U ancient city

“Myanmar Tourism Marketing is, of course, hoping that other places around Myanmar will soon receive UNESCO Heritage status, just as Indawgyi Lake recently gained recognition,” said Myanmar Tourism Marketing chairperson, Ma May Myat Mon Win.

“More international recognition will help show to the world how much cultural and natural beauty this country has to offer.”

Tourism authorities in Myanmar and Cambodia announced, last month, that they will launch a joint action plan to boost the tourism industries of the two countries, the Myanmar Ministry of Hotels and Tourism said last week.

Cambodia recently celebrated the addition of a third temple complex to the World Heritage list.

Inclusion of Angkor Wat on the list in 1992 was one of the factors that turned the ancient temple complex into Cambodia’s top must-see attraction.

Today, Angkor Wat receives over 2 million tourists a year, compared with just 280,000 tourists visiting Bagan in 2016.

Bagan is often identified as a comparable historical treasure to Angkor Wat in terms of culture and heritage value. MTM believes Bagan deserves a place among the world top World Heritage sites, a status that would prompt a boom in tourism.

But Bagan’s ancient structures need urgent restoration and there is already considerable  encroachment of land that should be part of the proposed World Heritage site. Pagodas were damaged by an earthquake in August 2016 as well as from the constant flow of  tourists, who were climbing the structures to gain a vantage point to photograph the sunset.

For decades ruled by a military junta, the country heritage sites were barred from applying for UNESCO’s World Heritage status. It is now playing catch up.

Myanmar Tourism Marketing is an officially recognised agency made up of representatives from the tourism industry and government departments and ministries linked to tourism.

(Source: Myanmar Tourism Marketing)