There are news reports that one of Myanmar’s favorite tourism destinations is drying up.
Good. Let it. May Inle Lake shrink away.
Watch it join this list of the world’s drying waterholes.
Too cruel? Admittedly.
But here’s my point: Real change often requires crisis.
In the last 6 years Myanmar has undergone radical transformation. Trade restrictions have been dropped. Foreign investment has been welcomed. Capitalism and the market economy has been pushed.
It’s led to a wild west phenomenon. Environmental protection and regulations have been left wayside.
When I visited Inle Lake in January 2016, I was floored by the endless buzzing of motorboats filled with tourists shooting across the lake. In just one hour, I counted more than 200 boats fire up a Inle Lake canal to an ancient Buddhist burial site. It stripped the site of any sense of meaning or reverence.
But aside from my mild ‘first-world problem’ of noise irritation and feeling like I was just another tourist on a well travelled trail is a real issue.
Environmental protection is often neglected in Myanmar’s race to gain capital.
In the last month alone, the country’s news agencies brought forward concerns about:
- Hydropower dams that are forging ahead without adequate community consultation or environmental impact reports
- Protests over mines dumping waste – impacting local waterways
- Mass shoreline erosion because of the sale and removal of tons of sand
- Illegal logging of ancient forests
- Poaching of endangered species
So Inle Lake is shrinking. Rivers are drying up. The lake has already lost 41 square kilometers of water in just 6 years. Some 190,000 who rely on this waterway are worried and affected.
Something needs to be done to save it. Hopefully this crisis will be the spur that launches action across the country.
Restrictions and controls need to be enforced. Environmental protection needs to be a top priority for the new government.
The dash for cash should not come ahead of the long term well being of the people and the natural environment they dwell in.