Indawgyi Lake is Southeast Asia’s third largest lake with outstanding biodiversity and cultural values. The lake and its associated wetland is an important wintering site for more than 20,000 water birds. Seasonally flooded grassland supports a significant population of the endangered hog deer, while the forests of the watershed harbour globally threatened mammal species such as the eastern hoolock gibbon, Shortridge’s langur, Asiatic black bear, Chinese pangolin and gaur.
FFI has been working with local community groups as well as relevant government departments in the Indawgyi Lake basin to protect critically important wetlands and surrounding watershed forests. A first step was the international recognition of Indawgyi as a globally important wetland site under the Ramsar convention. FFI also facilitated the process that led to Indawgyi being declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2017.
The main threats to Indawgyi Lake are unsustainable fisheries, deforestation due to unsustainable firewood extraction, pollution caused by gold mining and the lack of waste management and sanitation, as well as the recent introduction of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the paddy fields surrounding the lake.
FFI is supporting sustainable community livelihoods through the establishment of community forestry and agroforestry, provision of fuel-efficient stoves and the introduction of organic farming practices. Since 2012, more than 25 community forestry groups have been established and at least 50% of all households use firewood-saving stoves. FFI also supports a small grants programme for local fishing communities to initiate alternative livelihoods and we support community-based eco-tourism. We also support lake-shore villages in improving waste management and sanitation.
We are providing technical advice to the lake management authorities on how to work alongside these grass roots organisations to tackle the many and mounting threats that Indawgyi’s natural resources face, in collaboration with the Fisheries Department, the Indawgyi Wildlife Sanctuary staff and local fishing communities.