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    CIE4702: Deforestation Yangon (Myanmar)

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    CIE4702: Deforestation Yangon (Myanmar)

    Myanmar is a country with one of the largest forest surfaces in South-east Asia (Fu-Jiang Liu et al., 2015). The forest is an important environmental aspect in a country where the majority of the people is dependent of the wood for fuel from the forests. But the past few decades the forest is threated by the same people through overconsuming. This phenomenon is deforestation and occurs at large scale in Myanmar. Deforestation causes a lot of other environmental issues, for example flooding in Yangon City. This trend report will show the trends up to 2040 for the deforestation in Myanmar with respect to the Yangon region and show some of the driving forces for deforestation.

    Current situation


    At the moment Myanmar is the country with the second largest forest covered area in South-east Asia (Fu-Jiang Liu et al., 2015). The forest covers an area of 42,365,729 ha, which is 63% of the whole country’s terrestrial surface, measured in 2014 (Fu-Jiang Liu et al., 2015). But of these 63% only 38% is intact forest. Intact forest is the forest which is undamaged by humans, all the other forest is damaged and causes extinction of species and other environmental problems. Currently the intact forest covers only 25,553,932 ha of the country’s terrestrial surface (Public Library of Science, 2017). Most of the intact forest is located in the northern part of Myanmar, at the beginning of the river Ayeyarwady in the mountains (see figure 1).

    Figure 1. Forest covered area Myanmar (Fu-Jiang Liu et al., 2015)


    Yangon is captured within two dangerous areas with respect to forest (figure 2). On the north side of the country you have the beginning of the Ayeyarwady river in the mountains. This land surface is covered with a lot of forest that regulates the inflow of the river. The amount of forest in this part of the land affects the water flow in the Yangon region because Yangon is situated downstreams. At the southern part of Yangon you have the coastal line with mangrove forest in the Ayeyarwady delta. This mangrove forest is an important seashore safety element. The roots of the mangroves can absorb big waves caused by extreme weather and also the sea-level rising is much more regulated in the mangroves compared to a bare coast (Mark Spalding et al., 2014).  Currently the mangrove forest covers an area of 28,847 ha in the Ayeyarwady delta (U Win Maung, 2012). Figure 3 shows the reduction of the mangrove forest over time.

    Figure 2. Yangon region danger (map: (MIMU, 2016))

    Figure 3. Mangrove forest Ayeyarwady river delta (data from: M. E. N. Kroon and J. Rip, 2015)

    Driving forces

    To describe the future trends in deforestation it is important to know what the driving forces are. All these driving forces are affecting an increase or maybe decrease in deforestation.

    Ayeyarwady valley
    for the northern part of Myanmar, the Ayeyarwady valley, the main driving force for deforestation is the agricultural use of land. People need more land for their crops because the demand for food becomes higher due to of the increase in population. They burn down/cut down the forest illegally for agricultural use (Peter Leimgruber et al., 2005). From research, between 2000 and 2014, the agricultural land cover increased with 58%, while the intact forest degraded by 11%, the other 47% is obtained by clear cutting the already damaged forest (Tejas Bhagwat et al., 2017)! This driving force has also the dreadful consequence that it starts a domino effect of deforestation. Land next to the agricultural land is more easily clear cut for more agricultural space than new, intact forests that were more isolated situated.
    Another, more recent, driving force is the political unstable situation. There are a lot of conflicts in Myanmar since it become independent in 1948. Several rural periods has started and ended but nowadays a new conflict has started around the Rohingya people. People don’t care about the environment at times of conflicts and that’s why unstable political conditions are dangerous for forests and cause in that way deforestation (Manoj Kumar Sinha, 2001).

    Ayeyarwady delta

    The main driving force for deforestation in the Ayeyarwady delta is increasing population in Yangon, shown in figure 4. Growing population in combination with more urbanization causes real increases in deforestation of the mangrove forest in the delta. With the growing population in Yangon, the need for more space for housing is also increasing. In 1947 the Yangon city covered an area of 98.5 square kilometers and in 1997 this was already 593 square kilometers (San San Moe, 2010).

    With the increasing population the demand for fuel is also increasing. Mangrove forest is an easy and fast way to use for fuel. That is why fuelwood collection is a big driving force for deforestation of the mangrove forest.
    In the Ayeyarwady delta is agricultural use of land likewise a driving force for deforestation. The demand for food is increasing with the population growth as explained above. The delta is a perfect area for growing rice and other crops and this causes deforestation of the mangrove forest either.


    Figure 4. Population Yangon (Department of Population et al., 2015, Population of 2017, 2017)

    Future development (up to 2040)

    Mangrove forest Ayeyarwady river delta

    Based on the research of M. E. N. Kroon and J. Rip (2015) the mangrove deforestation in the period from 1990 till 2014 is shown in figure 7. Figure 6 shows the annual deforestation rate in the period of 1990 till 2014. To predict the annual deforestation rate up to 2040 the population growth is important to know. Following the ‘Yangon 2040 The Peaceful and Beloved Yangon’ a research plan of the Yangon government, the population in Yangon will grow to 11,730,146 till 14,089,587 persons in 2040 (see figure 5) (Yangon Region Government, 2013). This means an increase of 135% from 2016 till 2040, an annual increase of 5.6%. In the last 33 years the annual increase of population was 1.55% with a mean annual deforestation rate of the mangrove of 1.78% (figure 6).

    Figure 5. Population Yangon trend (data from: Department of Population et al., 2015, Population of 2017, 2017)

    Figure 6. Mean annual deforestation rate

    With these two numbers a prediction of the deforestation rate with respect to population growth can be made and is shown in figure 7. We assume that the mean annual deforestation rate will be 6.39% which results in the fact that the mangrove forest in the Ayeyarwady river delta in 2030 has totally disappeared.

    The impact of the fuelwood consumption is obtained from research of Tejas Bhagwat et al. (2014). In the period 2002 till 2014 the fuelwood consumption causes an annual decrease of the mangrove of 0.15% in the whole country. When this is projected on the next years up to 2040, the mangrove forest decreases as shown in figure 7.

    Deforestation caused by agricultural land use has a much bigger annual net change in the past decade. The annual net change in the Ayeyarwady region is 1.67% (Tejas Bhagwat et al., 2014). When this percentage is computed to the next years the mangrove forest decreases as shown in figure 7.

    Figure 7. Mangrove forest Ayeyarwady river delta trend

    Forest Ayeyarwady valley (northern part Myanmar)

    To show the trend of the deforestation in the Ayeyarwady river valley, a research of Chuyuan Wang and Soe W. Myint (2016) and Tejas Bhagwat et al. (2017) is used. In this research they studied the deforestation in Myanmar and all its individual regions from 2000 till 2010 (Chuyuan Wang and Soe W. Myint, 2016) and in the period of 2002 till 2014 (Tejas Bhagwat et al., 2017). In the region Kachin, the region with the highest amount of forest in Myanmar, the mean annual deforestation rate is relatively low in comparison to the Yangon region, 0.21%. But earlier research has shown that the deforestation rate in Kachin was 0.01% between 1991 and 1990 (Tejas Bhagwat et al., 2017). And this means that the mean annual deforestation rate is rapidly growing. The research from Chuyuan Wang and Soe W. Myint (2016) shows that the mean annual deforestation rate is almost 0.03%.  Combining these two studies, the amount of forest in Kachin can showed in a graph, as in figure 8. We assume that the mean annual deforestation rate from 2014 till 2040 will be at least the same as in the decade before. This results in a trend line shown in figure 8.

    There is also research available for the agricultural impact on the deforestation in the Kachin region. The research shows that in the period of 2002 till 2014 the annual net change in plantation is +5.67%, this means indirectly an annual net change of -5.67% for deforestation. See figure 8. (Tejas Bhagwat et al., 2017)

    Figure 8. Forest Kachin region trend (data from: Tejas Bhagwat et al., 2017)

    Potential impact on the system

    When the population increases there will be no mangrove left in 2030 in Ayeyarwady river delta (see figure 7) conform the trend. This means that there will be no fuelwood available anymore and that can cause a shift towards another part of the country for fuelwood. This affects the increase of deforestation in other regions.

    Another impact of the deforestation of mangrove forest is that the coastal line is less protected from the sea. Heavy storms occur at sea and cause big waves which are nowadays absorbed by the mangrove forest. But when this forest has disappeared the waves will not be absorbed and the shore is unprotected which causes overflowing of the area. Even with the climate changes cyclones like Nargis in 2008 will occur more frequently and without seashore protection Yangon will not be safe.

    Besides all the flooding impacts that will happen in the future because of deforestation, mangrove is also a really good carbon absorber. Deforestation causes significant carbon release. When the city Yangon is growing, the carbon dioxide emission will also increase. The mangrove forest can absorb the carbon dioxide but when this is removed and used for fuel of charcoal burning there will no absorber anymore for the carbon. And beside the absorb mechanism of mangrove forest, deforestation itself causes also carbon release. From the Chuyuan Wang and Soe W. Myint (2016) research the carbon release rate was 2.79% over the past decade in the mangrove forest. This increase in carbon release rate causes also an increase of the land surface temperature and a decrease of evapotranspiration.

    Range of uncertainty

    There are many studies where the history of deforestation is displayed. But fewer studies have predicted the future. The range of uncertainty in that case is high. As showed in figure 7 and 8 the differences between the deforestation trends are major. To predict the future in this report, the assumption of a linear trend line is made. Due to several other aspects that were not taken into account in this report the trend line could be more exponential that will cause difference in the deforestation.

    Another aspect that is not taken into account is the replantation of the mangrove trees by the WIF, World Investment Forum, and other companies. This is an aspect that is at the moment seriously time consuming but causes a less increase of deforestation. When there will be a technology for plantation mangrove invented in the future the mangrove forest can be saved and causes so a less rapidly deforestation.


    Chuyuan Wang, Soe W. Myint (2016). Environmental Concerns of Deforestation in Myanmar 2001–2010. Retrieved from:
    Accessed at: September 17th 2017

    Department of Population, Ministry of Immigration and Population, UNFPA (2015). A Changing Population: Yangon Region Figures at a Glance. Retrieved from:
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    Fu-Jiang Liu, Chengquan Huang, Yong Pang, Mengxue Li, Dan-Xia Song, Xiao-Peng Song, Saurabh Channan, Joseph O. Sexton, Die Jiang, Ping Zhang, Yan Guo, Yao-Feng Li, John R. Townshend (2015). Assessment of the three factors affecting Myanmar’sforest cover change using Landsat and MODIS vegetation continuous fields data, International Journal of Digital EarthRetrieved from:
    Accessed at: September 17th 2017

    Mark Spalding, Anna McIvor, Femke Tonneijck, Susanna Tol and Pieter van Eijk (2014). Mangroves for coastal defence. Retrieved from:
    Accessed at: September 30th 2017

    Manoj Kumar Sinha (2001). Protection Of The Environment During Armed Conflicts: A Case Study Of Kosovo. Retrieved from:
    Accessed at: September 30th 2017

    M.E. N. Kroon, J. Rip (2015). Scoping study of ‘Coastal Squeeze’ phenomenon, the Ayeyarwady Delta Myanmar. Retrieved from: file:///C:/Users/TU%20Delf%20SID/Downloads/Scoping_study_of_Coastal_Squeeze_in_the_Ayeyarwady_Delta.pdf
    Accessed at: September 17th 2017

    MIMU, Myanmar Information Management Unit (2016). GIS Resources. Retrieved from:
    Accessed at: September 30th 2017

    Peter Leimgruber, Daniel S. Kelly, Marc K. Steininger, Jake Brunner, Thomas Muller, Melissa Songer (2005). Forest cover change patterns in Myanmar (Burma) 1990−2000. Retrieved from:
    Accessed at: September 17th 2017

    Population of 2017 (2017). Population of Yangon 2017. Retrieved from:
    Accessed at: September 17th 2017

    Public Library of Science (2017). Myanmar extensive forests declining rapidly due to political and economic chang, PLoS ONE. Retrieved from:
    Accessed at: September 17th 2017

    San San Moe (2010). Current Trends of Urban Development in Yangon City and Its Implications on The Environment. Retrieved from:
    Accessed at: September 17th 2017

    Tejas Bhagwat, Andrea Hess, Ned Horning, Thiri Khaing, Zaw Min Thein, Kyaw Moe Aung, Kyaw Htet Aung, Paing Phyo, Ye Lin Tun, Aung Htat Oo, Anthony Neil, Win Myo Thu, Melissa Songer, Katherine LaJeunesse Connette, Asja Bernd, Qiongyu Huang, Grant Connette, Peter Leimgruber (2017). Losing a jewel – Rapid declines in Myanmar’s intact forests 2002-2014. Retrieved from:
    Accessed at: September 17th 2017

    U Win Maung (2012). Challenges and lessons learned from ongoing CLEARR project (MERN). Retrieved from:
    Accessed at: September 17th 2017

    Yangon Region Government, Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) (2013). Yangon 2040, The Peaceful and Beloved Yangon ―A City of Green and Gold―. Retrieved from:
    Accessed at: September 17th 2017

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