Until very recently, Myanmar was a closed society with little contact with the rest of the world. Climate Change was an unknown factor in people’s lives, and poverty was widespread for most people in the society. Migration to other countries such as Thailand to earn money to support their families was, and still is, common practice, and education and career prospects for young people were bleak.
Inle Lake is a beautiful, freshwater lake on the Southern Shan State plateau in Eastern Myanmar (Burma), a major tourist site, home to scores of endemic flora and fauna species, and culturally diverse ethnic minority groups. The majority of livelihoods in the watershed rely on small-scale traditional farming, yet agri-business models and increasing pressures of tourism are contributing to severe environmental degradation of the lake and livelihood resource bases, leading to debt cycles, exploitation and loss of livelihoods. Youth are particularly impacted by loss of livelihood opportunities, often resulting in large-scale migration, or involvement in illicit channels for income. Most farmers (upland, lowland & floating gardens) use high-input, mono-cropping systems resulting in high pesticide/herbicide use leading to decrease in yield, debt cycle, loss of livelihood and deterioration of watershed. Local people are aware of environmental issues but don’t understand the causes. Climate Change is an unknown phenomenon to locals.
With the increase in tourism to Myanmar, and to Inle Lake in particular, the lake is in danger of further pollution, and the locals are under pressure to provide facilities to serve the increased numbers.