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The Struggle for EnvironmentalActivism in Myanmar

Shaila Venkat



Myanmar, a nation known for its rich biodiversity and pristine landscapes, is currently grappling with a myriad of environmental challenges exacerbated by political unrest. The once vibrant environmental activism in the country is now facing severe setbacks due to the military coup that took place in February 2023.


The military junta’s crackdown on dissent has had a profound impact on environmental activists in Myanmar, with an article by East Asia Forum shedding light on the arrests of several environmental activists. This highlights the risks they face for advocating sustainable practices and conservation, and how the suppression of free speech and civil liberties has stifled the once-thriving environmental movement, leaving activists in a precarious position.


Compounding this issue, Myanmar’s lush forests, home to a diverse array of flora and fauna, are now facing unprecedented threats. An article by Nikkei Asia outlines how conflict has contributed to deforestation, as armed groups have continued to exploit natural resources for funding. Logging, mining, and agricultural expansion are all escalating at extremely high rates, leading to irreversible damage to the country's ecosystems. Environmental activists, now more than ever, find themselves fighting not only against environmental degradation but also against the socio-political factors driving it.


The Conflict and Environment Observatory further analyzed the broader implications of the coup on Myanmar’s environment, finding that the power shift has disrupted environmental governance and conservation efforts, allowing exploitation of natural resources without accountability. The absence of effective regulations and oversight has created a vacuum that is being exploited by actors with little regard for ecological sustainability, leading to the degradation of Myanmar’s once-thriving landscapes.


GHRTV also reports on the worsening environmental conditions under the junta, emphasizing the increasing pollution, habitat destruction, and overall deterioration of Myanmar's natural environment. The military's focus on consolidating power has diverted attention and resources away from addressing critical environmental issues, leading to a decline in the state of the country’s ecosystems.


A chapter of Youth Beyond the City Thinking from the Margins entitled “Reimagining Space, Reorganizing Lives: Environmental Activism in Myanmar” provides broader perspectives on environmental activism in Myanmar. Scholars and experts highlight the challenges faced by activists and underscore the importance of international support and solidarity in addressing the environmental crisis, all reaching the same conclusion: The global community’s attention is crucial in ensuring that Myanmar's environmental concerns do not fade into oblivion amidst the political turmoil.


Myanmar's environmental activism, once a beacon of hope for conservation, finds itself at a critical juncture, with the intersection of political unrest, armed conflict, and environmental degradation posing immense challenges for those advocating sustainable practices. As the nation grapples with its turbulent political landscape, the need for international support and attention to Myanmar's environmental crisis has never been more urgent. The fate of the nation’s natural resources hangs in the balance, and the resilience of environmental activism will play a crucial role in shaping the future of Myanmar's environment.


Citations

1. Image from Pexels.com

2. Simpson, A., Kean, T., & Park, S. (2023, February 13). Myanmar’s arrested environmental activism. East Asia Forum. https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2023/02/13/myanmars-arrestedenvironmental-activism/ 3. Root, R. L. (2023, September 14). Myanmar's forests fall victim to conflict. Nikkei ASIA. https://asia.nikkei.com/Life-Arts/Life/Myanmar-s-forests-fall-victimto-conflict

4. Conflict and Environment Observatory. (2021, February 16). What Myanmar’s coup could mean for its environment and natural resources. Conflict and Environment Observatory. https://ceobs.org/what-myanmars-coup-couldmean-for-its-environment-and-natural-resources/

5. Öztürk, A. A. (2023, March 4). Environment continues to deteriorate under the junta in Myanmar. GHRTV. https://ghrtv.org/environment-continues-todeteriorate-under-the-junta-in-myanmar

6. Garnett, J. (2022, June 15). Reimagining Space, Reorganizing Lives: Environmental Activism in Myanmar. Bristol University Press. https://bristoluniversitypressdigital.com/display/book/9781529212037/ch004.xml








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