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Rallying call in Myanmar to meet growing climate threats

Feb 29. 2016
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By Khine Kyaw
Myanmar Eleven

YANGON - The population of Myanmar is being urged to lend a hand in preparing the country for climate change.
Their country, despite low emission, is exposed to various climate hazards such as cyclones, heavy rain, flooding, extreme temperatures, drought and sea level rise.
In a seminar entitled “Post COP21: Prospects and Challenges for Myanmar”, Harjeet Singh, ActionAid’s international policymaker for climate change, has issued the need for action.
He said civil society and NGOs needed to help the government assess climate impacts and develop plans for adaptation and addressing damage; help generate awareness and develop ways to deal with crises; and conduct pilot projects on various sectors and document learning so that action could be scaled up. 
“The government needs to bring good examples from other countries that are applicable to the Myanmar context and input into policy and framework development processes. It also needs to measure progress on the implementation of loss and damage work and highlight gaps,” he said.
Singh said the private sector needed to review impacts of their businesses on the environment as well as assess impact of climate change on the businesses. Also, the private sector needed to develop strategies to reduce environmental impacts, and partner with the government and NGOs by sharing their resources – skills, expertise and finance – to implement climate change programmes. 
The media can help educate the mass on the current and future impacts of climate change; highlight successful models and strategies to deal with climate change; and draw attention to gaps and areas where more work is required.
He said young journalists should be trained in covering climate change stories to raise awareness of the people. Myanmar ranked 91 in terms of CO2 emissions, according to the 
 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), emitting 11.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
In the national adaptation programme of action, 32 priority activities were specified for adaptation in eight main sectors/themes – agriculture, early warning systems, forest, public health, water resources, coastal zone, energy, and industry; biodiversity.
Singh said that the national plan needed to be broken down into a local one.
“The Myanmar government needs to prioritise adaptation domestically and engage at regional and international levels to exchange knowledge and resources. It needs to assess future loss and damage due to extreme weather and slow onset events and develop sector specific action plans. All development and sectoral interventions should be integrated in terms of policies, programmes and budgets,” he said.
It should also learn from successful models developed by NGOs and local government agencies and work with Asean institutions on knowledge development and sharing of technical and financial resources.
Action needed at the grassroots
“In Myanmar, policies are usually kept at the national level. When it comes to implementation, a lot of issues such as budget and financing arise and it is hard to make it happen successfully. We need to ensure policies are not on paper but in reality,” said Win Myo Thu, director of EcoDev – a non-governmental organisation for advocating civil society development and environmental governance in Myanmar. 
He said all the policies should be implemented by the community itself rather than by local authorities. He encouraged consultations with the elders and to promote participation of youth in the action plans. 
He lauded the parliament’s move to set up an emergency fund and reserve one-million tonnes of rice in case of emergency. He said such a budget must be set aside for emergency use such as rescue and resettlement of disaster-hit victims. The environmentalist also urged the government to strike a balance between economic policies and environmental protection. 
“We need to make a choice. Will we be proactive or free-riding? How we will survive in our economy is really important. We should not depend too much on selling our natural resources. If we run out of natural resources, what are we going to do?” he asked.
He warned that industrialisation could lead to environmental impacts, along with urbanisation. Measures are needed to deal with related challenges. 
While urging for the construction of more environmental-friendly hotels and promotion of responsible tourism, he said proper investment in research and development in agriculture was necessary. Rice output was important for the country, but high emission levels from rice plantations should also be taken into consideration, he said. 
“Never assume that it is the duty of the government only. Each and every stakeholder needs to participate in environmental protection to ensure better life for all of us. In this regard, all the proposed projects must be carefully considered in the environmental perspective,” said Win Myo Thu. 

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