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PR: For the health of its people and nature, Myanmar’s free-flowing rivers should be protected, recommends new report from WWF

23 September 2020

Yangon, September 23rd: Marking World Rivers Day, on September 27th, WWF-Myanmar released a new report highlighting the urgent need to preserve Myanmar’s unique and valuable free-flowing rivers for the health and economic wellbeing of the Myanmar people.

The report “Mapping Myanmar’s free-flowing rivers” highlights the importance of free- flowing rivers to the economy and the lives of Myanmar people and calls for the protection of the last very long free-flowing rivers of tropical Asia - the Ayeyarwady, the Chindwin and the Thanlwin rivers.  
 
Only one third of the world’s longest rivers remain free-flowing and three of them flow through Myanmar.  Myanmar’s rivers are unique, productive and biodiverse. The last three large free-flowing rivers of tropical Asia need protected status to protect the people of this country,’ said Nick Cox, Country Director, and WWF-Myanmar.
 
According to the Ayeyarwady State of the Basin Assessment (SOBA), the Ayeyarwady River alone is worth $ 2-7 billion a year in ecosystem services, representing 5 to 16 percent of the GDP per capita in ecosystem services. The fish provided by these rivers represents two thirds of animal protein for a typical Myanmar diet, and direct employment for over 6 percent of the Myanmar population.
 
Connected from their source to the sea, free-flowing rivers allow water and sediment to move freely downstream, and freshwater species to move up and downstream. This is essential for a healthy river to protect its diversity, productivity, and resilience to floods and climate change. Myanmar’s free-flowing rivers support fisheries, and agriculture, providing drinking water, eco-tourism livelihoods and operating as inland water transport.
 
The report shows that the key reason why Myanmar’s rivers have remained so productive and biologically diverse is because they are free-flowing. However, the report also highlights the threats to free-flowing rivers by plans to develop hydropower. 
 
Building dams blocks the flow of a river and we lose all the benefits that a free-flowing river provides. That loss will be felt not only by the people who depend on the rivers for their livelihoods, but also by the entire nation as we have less fish, poorer rice yields, and lower resilience to the impacts of climate change,” said Salai Thura Zaw, Freshwater Programme Officer, WWF-Myanmar.

The planning and construction of hydropower dams is a major threat for these unique free-flowing rivers and the services they provide. It is crucial to develop an energy vision for Myanmar which focuses on new renewables such as solar and wind instead of hydropower to maintain the value of the rivers. New renewables are beneficial not only because of their lower environmental impact, but because of lower price and faster construction times.
 
WWF is calling for the planning and construction of new dams to be halted in Myanmar, until effective mechanisms for management and protection of free-flowing rivers are implemented.

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About WWF                                                                                                                         https://www.wwf.org.mm/
 
WWF is one of the World's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. WWF-Myanmar opened in 2014, and our work includes wildlife and habitat conservation, green economy policy, renewable energy, freshwater conservation, and support to sustainable business.
 
WWF stands for the World Wide Fund for Nature (previously known as the World Wildlife Fund)
 
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