Posted in September 2017

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 hides a tremandous amount of species. Not only trees and plants but there is also a great diversity of animals living in these forests. 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 and where all the species can live in their natural habitat, all the other forest is damaged and causes extinction of species and other environmental problems. So 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 Irrawady in the moutains (see figure 1).

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


When we have a closer look to the Yangon region, you can see that 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 and this forest regulates the inflow of the river. So the amount of forest in this part of the land effects the water flow in the Yangon region because Yangon is in the downstream part of the river. At the south part of Yangon you have the coastal line with mangrove forest in the Ayeyarwady delta. This mangrove forest is an important seashore safety element. Mangroves can protect the coastal line against sealevel rising, extreme weather and it also absorbs carbon from the admosphere. Currently the mangrove forest covers an area of 28,847 ha in the Ayeyarwady delta (U Win Maung, 2012). As you can see in figure 3, this is a reduction of mangrove forest of 91% since 1990 in this area!

Figure 2. Yangon region danger

Figure 3. Mangrove forest Ayeyarwady river delta

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 of maybe decrease in deforestation.
For the northern part of Myanmar, the Ayeyarwady valley, the main driving forces for deforestation is the agricultural use of land. People need more land for there crops because the need for food becomes higher because 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% (Tejas Bhagwat et al., 2017)! And this driving force has the dismal consequence that it starts a domino effect of deforestation. Land next to the, already, agricultural surface is more easily clear cut for more agricultural space than new, intact forest surfaces.
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 there is a new conflict started around the Rohingya people. Why this is a driving force for deforestation, is because the people during a conflict need more waepens and other civil war ingredients. Most of the waepens and amunition is made out of wood from the forest. 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.

The main driving force for deforestation in the Ayeyarwady delta is the fuelwood collection for the immensively growing population in Yangon (see figure 4). The mangrove forest is an easy and fast way to get the fuel they need.
But it is not only for fuel they cut down the forest, it is also for creating more space for urbanization. Urbanization is another driving force for the Ayeyarwady delta, espacially in the Yangon region. 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 squared kilometers and in 1997 this was already 593 squared kilometers. A huge increase in urbanization which causes deforestation in this region (San San Moe, 2010).
A driving force called paddy fielding is also a consequence of the growing population in Yangon. Paddy fields are land surfaces flooded with water for growing rice. The delta is the perfect area because of its lower land situation but you have to remove the mangrove to make space for crop growing.

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 periode from 1990 till 2014 is showed 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 Governmen, 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

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.

Figure 7. Magrove 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 0.39%.  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. This means that the total forest covered area in Kachin will decrease by 15% compared to 1991.

Figure 8. Forest Kachin region trend

The other driving force for deforestation in the northern part of Myanmar is the unstable political situation. Because Kachin is one of the regions with the highest amount of forest, this part will be the first region where people are going to clear down the forest for war purpose. This means that the deforestation will be higher than shown in figure 8. We assume that the conflict has an impact not as big as the agricultural deforestation but it is needed to take this into account. So the mean annual deforestation rate will be higher than 0.39%, see figure 9.

Figure 9. Forest Kachin region trend incl. political unstable situation

Potential impact on the system

The impact on the Yangon region of deforestation is big. When the population increases there will be no mangrove left in 2030 in Ayeyarwady river delta (see figure 7). This means that the fuelwood consumption moves to another part of the country. Maybe the Kachin region, where a lot of forest is intact, the forest is degraded by clear cutting for fuel where it is now only for agricultural use. This causes also more danger for the Ayeyarwady valley, there will be more bare land which can result in land sliding by heavy rainfall. All the water streams downward via de river and ends in the Yangon region. In the Yangon region the water cannot flow into the ground because of the urbanization and the land will overflood.

Another impact of the deforestation of mangrove forest is that the coastal line is less protected for the sea. Heavy storms occur at sea and causes big waves which are nowadays absorbed by the mangrove forest. But when this forest has disappeard the waves will not be absorbed and the shore is unprotected which causes overflowing of the area. Even with the climate changes storms 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.


There are many studies where the history of deforestation is displayed. But less studies have predict the future, so in this report there are some assumptions that were made to make a trend up to 2040. The trend for the mangrove forest says that the mangrove forest in 2030 is disappeard (see figure 7) but this is based on the average mean annual deforestation rate in the paste 33 years. In these 33 years a huge cyclone, Nargis, happened and removed a lot of the mangrove. After 2008 the mangrove started to grow back (see figure 7) but in this trend report the mangrove forest starts to decrease inmediatelly from 2014. Probably the decrease from 2014 will not be so fast and gives a less steap line. But the conclusion that the mangrove will decrease with a high deforestation rate over the next two decades is certain.

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 which is at the moment really 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:

Department of Population, Ministry of Immigration and Population, UNFPA (2015). A Changing Population: Yangon Region Figures at a Glance. Retrieved from:

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:

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

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:

Population of 2017 (2017). Population of Yangon 2017. Retrieved from:

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

San San Moe (2010). Current Trends of Urban Development in Yangon City and Its Implications on The Environment. Retrieved from:

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:

U Win Maung (2012). Challenges and lessons learned from ongoing CLEARR project (MERN). Retrieved from:

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:

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