The US$21 million “Ridges to Reefs” project

US$ 21 MILLION MOECAF UNDP/ GEF PROJECT

RIDGES TO REEFS: INTEGRATED PROTECTED AREA LAND AND SEASCAPE MANAGEMENT IN TANINTHARYI

 

Lead National Ministry: Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MoECAF)

Other Executing Partners: Tanintharyi Regional Government, Smithsonian Institution (SI), Green Economy Green Growth (GEGG)-Myanmar Association, Fauna and Flora International (FFI)¨

 

A Stakeholders Meeting in Dawei is planned in May 2016 to develop a full project plan with stakeholders

 Extracted from GEF Trust Fund Project Identification Form (PIF)

 

Project Objectives:  Securing long-term protection of Key Biodiversity Areas through integrated planning and management of the protected area land/seascape in Tanintharyi

 

The Project Components are:

Integrated land/seascape planning and management in Tanintharyi

At least 2,000,000 ha of Tanintharyi Region covering 4,334,330 ha employing integrated landscape management approach in the land use decision-making and forest and coastal landscape management, indicated by: (i) establishment of cross-sector joint planning and coordination mechanisms within the regional governance system; and  (ii) existence and use of  a range of support tools providing enabling environment for sustainable forest management and spatial and sectoral integration of PAs and associated threat reduction.

Ecosystem services maintained, indicated by (i) the area of High Conservation Value Forests (HCVF) secured; (ii) decreased rates of loss of terrestrial forests and mangrove coastal habitats, avoiding emissions from deforestation of 15,560,667 tC owing to gazettal of at least 300,000 ha of new HCVFs/High Carbon Stock Forests (HCSFs)

Tanintharyi PA System expanded from current 195,402 ha to 500,000 ha, with functioning corridors, covering identified Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) in both marine and terrestrial landscapes and high conservation value forests (HCVFs).

Improvements in financial sustainability scorecard for the Tanintharyi PA system.

Strengthened management and threat reduction in the target PAs and buffer zones.

  • Improved management effectiveness of individual existing and new PAs of global significance, covering over 500,000 ha, indicated by the percentage increase using the Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (METT).
  • Application of integrated natural resource management (INRM) practices in the selected targeted  landscapes of over 200,000 ha, resulting in reduction in the rate of loss in HCVFs and their improved status, reduction of threats at the landscape level indicated by quantifying poaching threats, agriculture/plantation expansion local/regional trade and trafficking, law enforcement interdictions, and other measures, as appropriate.
  • Status for selected indicator species in the region will be maintained or improved, as indicated by monitoring protocols that will be developed and implemented during Phase 1 (Years 1-3) and conducted at regular intervals during subsequent implementation phases.
  • Improved maintenance of the integrity and functioning of coral reef ecosystems, indicated by area of coral reef ecosystems, number of coral species and abundance in selected areas.

Emplacement of the National Biodiversity Survey (NBS) framework

  • Capacity building strategy for biodiversity knowledge generation and application integrated in the regional and national development framework and institutionalised in the government’s human resource management strategy.
  • Increased institutional capacity to collect and analyse biodiversity information/data, and apply them to the conservation and management of PAs and KBAs, and land use planning, as indicated by the UNDP capacity development scorecard.Increased capacity building targets will be assessed against baseline metrics at different levels’ (project, programme, policy levels)

 

Biodiversity Significance and Project Context:

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Myanmar is the jewel in the crown of Asia’s biodiversity. Intersecting three biogeographic regions, it is recognized for its exceptionally high endemism and its importance as a global biodiversity hotspot. Myanmar is the largest country in mainland South-East Asia, with a land area of 676,553 km² and a coastline of 2,832 km. It is the most forested country in South-East Asia, enjoying nearly 50% forest cover, and it possesses some of the most pristine marine ecosystems on Earth. The country includes all or part of fourteen Global Eco-regions defined by WWF, with 9 Global 200 Eco-regions including, Kayah-Karen/Tenasserim Moist Forests and the Andaman Sea.  Due to wide variations in latitude, altitude and climate within the country, Myanmar supports a high diversity of habitats, and is extremely rich in plant species. Furthermore, the country is located at the convergence of 4 major floristic regions: the Indian, Malaysian (Sundaic), Sino-Himalayan and Indochinese. Myanmar supports at least 251 mammal species, although a number of these species have not been confirmed to occur in recent years, with seven mammal species thought to be endemic. The country supports at least 1,090 bird species, a greater diversity than any other country in mainland South-East Asia. Myanmar’s avifauna contains six endemic species and numerous endemic subspecies, several of which may warrant full species status. Myanmar also supports at least 19 other restricted-range bird species (species with a global breeding range of less than 50,000 km2). The fresh water fish fauna of Myanmar is one of the least known in South-East Asia. The number of coral species in Myanmar is estimated by some experts to be as many as 350 species although most of them are yet to be scientifically described.

Tanintharyi Region: 

The country’s southern-most Tanintharyi Region is a relatively undeveloped area with high biodiversity and endemism that provides invaluable ecosystem services.  Approximately 20% of Myanmar’s Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) are located in Tanintharyi.  The whole Tanintharyi region, as well as a small part of the Mon and Kayin States, fall under the Sundaic Subregion Priority Corridor. The corridor includes the largest areas of lowland wet evergreen forest remaining in the Indo-Myanmar (Indo-Burma) Hotspot. The Priority Corridor also includes a significant portion of coastline, a large number of offshore islands and significant areas of key wetland habitats, including mangrove and intertidal mudflats. It includes the Moscos Islands and the Myeik Archipelago which consists of over 800 islands in the Andaman Sea Marine Ecoregion. Although the Priority Corridor has received little recent biological study, there are indications that it supports rich lowland evergreen forest communities and globally threatened wildlife, such as Asian tapir (Tapirus indicus) and plain-pouched hornbill (both are Vulnerable). Coastal habitats support Mangrove Terrapin (Critically Endangered) and are thought to be important for migratory water birds. Of greatest significance, the Priority Corridor supports the bulk of the world population of Gurney’s pitta (Critically Endangered), a species endemic to the Tanintharyi Region and a small part of peninsular Thailand (Anon. 2003, Eames et al. 2005). Moreover, the Priority Corridor is thought to support a relatively large population (approximately 50 individuals) of tiger (Endangered). The potential of the Sundaic Sub-region for the long-term conservation of landscape species, such as Asian elephant, tiger and plain-pouched hornbill, is enhanced by the existence of significant areas of contiguous natural habitat in western and peninsular Thailand, including significant portions which are already protected and managed.

Threats to Biodiversity: 

The outstanding biodiversity of the Tanintharyi region is under increasingly severe threats. The lowland forests in the Tanintharyi Range Corridor that support significant populations of globally threatened species, such as the endemic Gurney’s pitta, are under immediate threats from land conversion to oil palm and rubber plantations. There are already around 50 plantation licences being issued in the region. The Dawei Development Corridor Project, with associated infrastructure development such as a deep sea port and road links to Thailand, is likely to lead to significant habitat degradation and conversion. These initiatives do not only threaten the habitat but endanger the functioning of the Tanintharyi River watersheds, which discharge into the Andaman Sea. Any erosion in the watershed could lead to sedimentation and pollution impacting marine ecosystems in the Myeik Archipelago. Unsustainable and/or illegal logging and illegal wildlife trade also pose major threats. Forest products are over exploited particularly through resource extraction quotas sold to local businesses that often overlap with PA boundaries and can be politically sensitive to enforce. Fishing rights are also sold using similar auction methods and often promote commercial over-harvesting while at the same time excluding the subsistence needs of local communities. Both terrestrial and marine pollution threats are on a sharp increase from extractive industries (e.g. gas, oil, copper, gold, zinc etc.), aquaculture (e.g. shrimp farming) and construction in coastal areas such as seaport development. Moreover, the decline of fishery resources is a major concern for the government, as fishermen are reporting drastic reductions in their catches. This has led to a recent decision by the government to halve the off-shore fishing season from 90 to 45 days. Illegal fishing by foreign vessels with modern equipment is regularly reported. Furthermore, temperature rise and an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events associated with climate change are expected to pose emerging threats to both terrestrial (e.g. wildfires, floods) and marine biodiversity (e.g. adverse impacts on coral). Root causes of the threats include population increase, poverty, undervaluation of natural resources, and environmental externalities not being integrated in the planning and operation of economic sectors. Refugees returning from Thailand and internally displaced persons could cause additional pressure, if they resort to unsustainable practices and their livelihoods remain precarious.[1]

Baseline Activities:

In the country’s democratisation process, the government has been striving to achieve both a green economy and green growth in the country – a growth pattern that learns from mistakes made by other countries in the region when faced with similar conditions of rapid growth and transition, generally characterized by economic growth that results in wealth disparity among populations at the expense of ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss.  Since 2011, the Myanmar government with the support of Green Economy Green Growth (GEGG) Association of Myanmar, has been engaged in high level discussions with eminent thinkers and practitioners from both public and private sectors around the world, to explore ways and mechanisms to achieve a sustainable path for Myanmar’s development.  The Green Economy Green Growth Forum will continue to be held with an annual budget of approximately $ 100,000 with over $ 300,000 in-kind contributions from international and national speakers, providing a major platform that influences the course of the nation’s development.During  2013 the Minister with the Deputy Ministers and Director Generals engaged in a series of conversations with GEGG, UNDP and Smithsonian Institution that resulted in the  31 October 2013 Concept Note for a Ten Year Strategic Framework with Three Phases that are linked. Phase I included “A 6-year umbrella project to cover Phase 1 and part of phase 2 has been identified, provisionally entitled “Ridge to Reef: Integrated Protected Area Land and Seascape Management in Tanintharyi

In the specific field of biodiversity and ecosystem services management, in order to protect the country’s outstanding biodiversity, the Myanmar government has designed a network of 43 PAs. Thirty-six of these have been officially gazetted under the Protection of Wildlife and Protected Areas Law, while 7 remain proposed. The 36 PAs cover 5.6% of the total land area of the country, and the addition of the 7 proposed protected areas would increase this to 6.7%.

In 2001, the government approved a 30-year Forest Master Plan mandating the increase of the Permanent Forest Estate (constituted by reserved forests and public protected forests) to 30% and an increase of PAs to 10% of the total country area. Furthermore, the Forest Master Plan encourages the registration of unclassified forests into community or private forests. The Government of Myanmar invests approximately US$ 750,000 in PA management annually. Myanmar is a partner of the Global Tiger Initiative and was represented at the Global Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg in September 2010 by the then Minister of Forestry. It submitted a National Tiger Recovery Plan (NTRP), as part of the Global Tiger Recovery Plan in June 2010.

[1] UNHCR estimates a total of about 400,000 individuals were still internally displaced in the rural areas of 36 townships in South-East Myanmar in Kayin, Kayah, South and East Shan and Mon States, and Bago and Tanintharyi Regions. (2008-2012, South East Myanmar:  A Report on Village Profiles 2008-2012)

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