Taking stock of Myanmar’s Natural Capital

The foundation for a green economy

In order to save ourselves, we need to save nature’s bank account—its natural capital. Simply put, natural capital is the stock of natural assets—land, water, soil, plants, wildlife and air—that provides benefits to people and wildlife. These benefits are called “ecosystem services.” Natural capital is critical to our well-being and underpins economic productivity.

 

The Need for Balance

The need for balance is critical to the well-being of Myanmar’s people and wildlife. For example, the country’s inland forests help purify drinking water and its mangroves help protect people from coastal storms. Natural areas also are habitat for Myanmar’s endangered wildlife and the source of food, medicine and building materials for people.

Balance can be secured by connecting the dots. When a mine is constructed, for example, it is essential to consider the impact it can have on the rivers that provide drinking water to millions of people. If a road is built through a forested area, what impact will it have on the wildlife that rely on that forest for food and shelter?

A New Assessment

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A new assessment led by World Wide Fund for Nature, at the request of the Government of Myanmar, will help Myanmar make those connections. The assessment includes information about where the country’s natural capital is located, what ecosystem services it provides to people, and how those services will change under different climate change and development scenarios.

Vulnerability to Climate Change

Protecting the natural capital that provides these types of ecosystem services to people and wildlife also is important because Myanmar ranks as the second most vulnerable country in the world to climate change. In many areas of the country, the effects of climate change are a reality—as witnessed by changing weather patterns that cause droughts, floods, landslides and other disasters.

How to Use this Information

This assessment paints a vivid picture of the importance of the country’s natural capital. It can be used to develop a green economy approach—one in which the benefits of natural capital and the impacts from climate change are integrated into the country’s plans and policies for the economy, as well as energy, agriculture, climate resilience, land use, foreign investment and more. More specific ways in which it can be used include:

  1. Inform national, regional and township level land use planning processes

  2. Understand the trade-offs and identify alternative options for infrastructure development

  3. Provide input to Strategic Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Assessments, especially for assessing cumulative impacts

  4. Develop sector-specific guidelines for investments

  5. Identify areas where conservation should be supported or enhanced

  6. Guide protected-area identification and management

  7. Support the development of payments for ecosystem services schemes

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