In­fra­struc­ture boom poses threat to tigers

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - KYI KYI SWAY newsroom@mm­times.com

Asia’s tiger are find­ing their habi­tat in­creas­ingly en­croached upon by roads, canals, and oil and gas pipe­lines, ac­cord­ing to a new World Wildlife Fund re­port.

UR­BAN­I­SA­TION and in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment are pos­ing an un­prece­dented and es­ca­lat­ing threat to Asia’s tiger pop­u­la­tion, a new re­port by the World Wildlife Fund warns.

If no new sus­tain­abil­ity mea­sures are en­acted to com­bat the in­fra­struc­ture boom and en­su­ing habi­tat frag­men­ta­tion, Asia’s tigers are at risk of ex­tinc­tion.

WWF’s re­port, “The Road Ahead: Pro­tect­ing tigers from Asia’s de­vel­op­ment boom”, ad­vises that gov­ern­ments, in­clud­ing Myan­mar’s, must de­velop long-term en­vi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tives that in­te­grate eco­log­i­cal sys­tems into de­vel­op­ment plan­ning.

As na­tions in the re­gion work to meet their pop­u­la­tion’s in­creas­ing in­fra­struc­ture needs, tigers are placed at risk by habi­tat loss and poach­ing, and are be­ing brought into con­flict with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, the re­port which was re­leased last week says.

More than 11,000 kilo­me­tres (6835 miles) of road and rail­way are al­ready be­ing con­structed through tigers’ nat­u­ral habi­tats across the con­ti­nent, along with canals, and oil and gas pipe­lines.

China, Myan­mar, Thai­land and Malaysia now have less than 500 tigers be­tween them, the re­port said, and that pop­u­la­tion could be lost if in­fra­struc­ture plans are not rethought.

“Myan­mar is at the heart of this anal­y­sis,” said U Win Myint, WWF-Myan­mar’s govern­ment pol­icy re­la­tions man­ager.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the Dawna Te­nasserim Land­scape (DTL), which stretches along the Thai­land-Myan­mar bor­der, is home to the largest pop­u­la­tion of tigers left in the Greater Mekong re­gion.

“Due to their small pop­u­la­tion, Myan­mar’s tigers de­pend on the con­nec­tion to tiger pop­u­la­tions in Thai­land for breed­ing to sus­tain their pop­u­la­tion,” the re­port said, adding that the con­struc­tion of the Bangkok-Dawei road will in­ter­sect that habi­tat and hin­der the tigers’ move­ment along the DTL.

“The pro­posed Dawei road de­vel­op­ment cuts right through the last re­main­ing tiger ter­ri­tory in the Greater Mekong re­gion,” U Win Myint said.

“In­fra­struc­ture is es­sen­tial for Myan­mar’s de­vel­op­ment, but we need to en­sure it is sus­tain­able and does not come at the ex­pense of tigers and their land­scape,” he added.

Ac­cord­ing to the WWF re­port, sus­tain­able plan­ning and habi­tat re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion mea­sures are needed to safe­guard the eco­nomic, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits that tiger land­scapes pro­vide.

Poach­ing and habi­tat de­struc­tion led to a 97 per­cent de­crease in wild tiger pop­u­la­tions dur­ing the 20th cen­tury. In 2010, it was es­ti­mated that only 3200 tigers re­mained in the wild, com­pared to more than 100,000 the cen­tury be­fore.

In 2010, Myan­mar was one of 13 gov­ern­ments to com­mit to dou­bling the tiger pop­u­la­tion by 2022 at a sum­mit held in St Peters­burg, Rus­sia.

In 2016, at the half­way point of this com­mit­ment, there are now an es­ti­mated 3890 tigers in the wild with num­bers inch­ing up in In­dia, Rus­sia, Nepal and Bhutan.

“Not only do Myan­mar’s tigers face the threat of in­fra­struc­ture, they are also caught in the cen­tre of Asia’s il­le­gal wildlife trade, with Myan­mar be­ing both a tran­sit coun­try and trad­ing hub,” said U Paing Soe, con­ser­va­tion bi­ol­o­gist with WWF Myan­mar.

With a road dis­sect­ing pre­vi­ously undis­turbed ha­bit­u­ated along the Thai-Myan­mar bor­der, poach­ers’ ac­cess and ease of trans­porta­tion is likely to in­crease.

“The good news is that so­lu­tions ex­ist and it is not too late. But if coun­tries do not act now, the dam­age will be ir­repara­ble,” Mike Baltzer, leader of WWF’s Tiger’s Alive Ini­tia­tive, said in a press state­ment.

Photo: EPA

Small gains that have been made in in­creas­ing the re­gion’s tiger pop­u­la­tion are un­der threat from in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ments.

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