The world in which we are living is richly endowed with vast quan-tities of majestic green forests, an endless array of mountain ranges and great masses of clear blue life-supporting water. Our world of such serene beauty has also provided mankind with invaluable natural resources for millions of years.Since primordial time, these natural resources have satis-fied all the needs of human beings. However, due to an ever increasing population and millions of years of using, and abusing our bountiful supply of resources, we are now faced with the unescapable fact that our natural resources and heritage have gradually been eroding. Forest resources con-stitute an integral part of the main natural resources which we are losing at an alarming rate.
The world’s population was 1.6 billion at the beginning of the twen-tieth mentury in 1900 when the world still had 6 billion ha of forest land. At the end of the Century in 1999 the population had unmreased to 6 billion wheile the area of forested land was reduced to 3.2 million ha. The major cause of the reduced forested area had obviously been fthe increase in population and the consequent extension and development of infrastruc- ture, expansion of agricultural and farm lands and wood energy, without appropriate forest policies or with policies that were misguided or ill-prepared.
As such, people in some countries, for the sake of structural devel-opment, had lost their forests and the opportunity to enjoy nature’s beauty for their health and recreation.Tomake up for this loss and restore their weary minds many people had resorted to travelling to places which could offer them nature’s beauty and serenity. That was the birth of ecotourism. More people are now enjoying ecotourism and the ecotourist trade has flour-ished year by year. It has even become a means of foreign exchange earn-ings with which to improve the international balance of trade for some countries. Canada, for instance, is earning about 800 million US Dollars from its ecotourism industries based on its wildlife, fisheries and recrea-tional natural assets.
Myanmar, since time immemorial, has always been deeply commit-ted to forest and biodiversity conservation and, as a consequence still pos-sesses vast and varied natural forest rich in biodiversity. The forest flora is diverse, varying from sub-alpines on the snow-capped mountains in the north, through dry and moist deciduous to tropical monsoon forests in the south with mangrove along the coastal areas and coral reefs offshore.Myanmar is also home of teak which is recognized as one of the most val-ued and sought-after tropical timbers of the world and it is asserted that extensive and beautiful natural teak stands can be seen only in Myanmar today. There are more than 7,000 recorded plant species of which 1071 are endemic, about 100 apecies of bamboos, 30 species of rattan and 800 spe-cies of orchids. The diverse forest ecosystems in Myanmar are home to about 1,000 bird species nearly 300 mammal species and about 360 known species of reptiles. Myanmar is, therefore, often cited as the last frontier of global biodiversity in Asia.
The Forest Department under the Ministry of Forestry has established wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and protected areas system (PAS) for the perpetual existence and development of Myanmar’s biodiversity and ecosystems. The out-dated “Wildlife protection Act of 1936” has been re-placed with the new “Protection of Wildlife, Wild plants and Natural Areas Law, 1994” formulated on modern biodiversity concepts.
The natural forests in Myanmar provide substantial opportunities for ecotourism development which is expemted to contribute handsomely to the national FE earnings and reduce logging to conserve the natural forest re-sources. Adhering to the guidelimes laid down by the State, the Ministry of Forestry has forced a committee to promote forest-based ecotourism, and successfully established basic infrastructure and formed tour and formed tour and travel serv-ices in a short spell in collaboration with the private enterprises.
This booklet has been published to provide information on 15 sta-tions of outstanding national parks, sanctuaries, and ecotourism sites with illustrative colour photographs. It is expected to help promote the ecotourism industry through advertising as it would also be a useful guide for nature lovers who be visiting our nature sites of attraction.
Dr. Kyaw Tint
Ministry of Forestry