Myanmar - Development of the „Indawgyi Lake“ UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

The current situation in Myanmar offers a short but promising window-of-opportunity to realign its conservation policy. The country is moving away from a “government ordered” protectional approach and on to a collaborative approach involving the local communities.The UNESCO „Man and Biosphere“ Programme offers the appropriate framework to realize this and became therefore part of this process.


Indawagyi-Lake is the third largest freshwater lake in SoutheastAsia. With its natural and cultural heritage, it has a lot of potential to become a biosphere reserve. The hills surrounding the lake are still covered with relatively undisturbed tropical forests, harboring endangered primates such as Eastern Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolockleuconedys) as well as Phayre Langur (Trachypithecusphayrei) and Shortridge Langur (Trachypithecus shortridgei). The lake with its afferent streams and periodically inundated wetlands isimportant as breeding, roosting and wintering sites for numerous birds as well as habitat for endemic and threatened water turtles and fish. The Shwemyintzu-Pagoda, located in the middle of the lake, attracts up to 80,000 visitors during Buddhist festivities. The population density of Indawgyi region is relatively high (150 inhabitants/km²) and still rising due to immigration. This increases the pressure on natural resources in the area. However, the high environmental awareness and willingness to communicate that already exist in the region will hopefully facilitate stakeholder dialogue for the establishment of a biosphere reserve. A strategy for sustainable regional development can contribute to preserve this treasure for future generations.


the objective of the project is to develop Indawgyi-Lake area as a model region for sustainable development in Myanmar in accordance with UNESCO MAB guidelines, to elaborate in a participatory manner a nomination file and to submit it to UNESCO MAB secretariat.


Intended outcome:

  • By establishing a biosphere reserve, the project will provide a basis for sustainable rural development and resource management that allows full participation of the local community.
  • Long-term protection of ecosystems to preserve habitats for flora and fauna while taking account of the local communities needs


Project activities:

  • Collect and evaluate biodiversity data; develop management recommendations, mainly for birds, amphibians, plants and vegetation types;
  • Initiation of alternative land use concepts and income opportunities, the latter particularly through sustainable community-based tourism;
  • Conceptual development of the biosphere reserve, including monitoring concept and development of a management structure; information of local, provincial and national stakeholders on biosphere reserve objectives and concept;
  • Stakeholder workshops for participatory zonation of the area, including collecting communities perceptions of natural and cultural sites worth protecting; developing a common vision for the future biosphere reserve, linked to an initiative that supports education for sustainable development;
  • Elaboration and submission of the UNESCO biosphere reserve nomination dossier.


Supported by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) with funds from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). It is implementedin cooperation with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Forestry of Myanmar (MOECAF) and the UNESCO-Biospherereserves Spreewald and River-landscape Elbe Brandenburg.


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Kirsten Meuer, email: kirsten.meuer(at)