In Myanmar, environmental degradation is low. Like other developing countries, the major source of environmental problems in Myanmar lies in the problem of underdevelopment rather than in industrial pollution and unsustainable lifestyle. Therefore, central to Myanmar's approach to the environment issue is the protection and conservation of environment in the national endeavour.
Myanmar is basically an agricultural country, and the Myanmar people fully understand and appreciate the value of nature. Myanmar people traditionally try to avoid extremes that might hurt nature and prefer instead to live in harmony with it. The practice and protection of nature is therefore ingrained in the hearts of the Myanmar people.
Nevertheless, the growing population, increased urbanization and industrialization will exert increasing pressure on the natural resources of the country. While some of the resources such as forests, flora and fauna, fisheries and marine resources are renewable, mineral resources like petroleum, coal and gems are effectively non-renewable. Therefore, Myanmar's environmental considerations are properly integrated with development planning, keeping in mind the need for environmentally sound and sustainable utilization of our natural resources.
To coordinate environmental matters in the country, the Government of the Union of Myanmar formed the National Commission for Environmental Affairs (NCEA) in February 1990 with the Minister for Foreign Affairs as its Chairman. The Commission coordinates the work of various government agencies and departments and also acts as the national focal point for environmental matters vis-à-vis other countries and international organizations. It reports directly to the Cabinet.
The Commission is presently focusing on the promotion of public awareness for environmental protection and to secure the active participation and cooperation of the public in environmental conservation efforts. The NCEA, now a fully operational national commission, is in the process of building an environmental database with linkage to the Global Resources Information Database (GRID) through the assistance of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). One of its more recent activities is cooperating with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the development of a national environment policy for Myanmar.
Myanmar's commitment and concern for the global and national environment is reflected in the signing of the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Environmental protection and conservation occupy a place of special significance on the national agenda of Myanmar, and Myanmar's National Commission for Environmental Affairs will continue to strengthen its efforts for preserving and protecting the environment while participating and cooperating in the global effort.