GEF Finances Large Expansion of Myanmar’s Protected Area System

September 15, 2014

The GEF has endorsed a new project in Myanmar to strengthen and expand its protected area estate amidst an emerging and rapidly growing economy. This project, titled Strengthening Sustainability of Protected Area Management (GEF ID 5159) will safeguard the highly unique natural heritage for the benefit of current and future generations and ensure continued provision of ecosystem services for the people of Myanmar. The $24 million project ($6 million GEF grant, $18 million co-financing from other partners) is executed by the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry in co-operation with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), with UNDP as the GEF Implementing Agency.

The project has already benefitted from a project preparation grant that has helped to design the project and ensure comprehensive stakeholder participation within 17 months since the GEF Council approved the concept. 


A Patrol Team in the Htamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo credit: WCS

The project contributes significantly to a more effective management of Myanmar’s protected area (PA) network and a close to 3 million ha expansion of the network from the current 5.6% to the government target of 10% of the country’s land area. More than 100 currently unprotected animal and plant species will benefit from improved PA management and better protection status, as well as – globally significant populations of Tiger, Asian Elephant, and primates such as Hoolock Gibbon.

The project will also support the implementation of the CITES-MIKE Program and the timely submission of standardized relevant law enforcement data to CITES. Furthermore, the Project will coordinate with the Global Tiger Initiative, through directly contributing to the National Tiger Action Plan by working in Myanmar’s designated Tiger Conservation Landscapes (TCLs).

The Protected Area System expansion will also better safeguard approximately 20% of Myanmar’s forests. A recent environmental valuation study (Emerton and Yin Ming Aung, 2013) estimated the value of Myanmar’s overall forest ecosystem services at about $7 billion. Of this, income earned from forest utilization accounts for less than 15% of the value estimated in this study. By far the largest share – 85%, or around $6 billion − stems from forest ecosystem services such as forest carbon sequestration, watershed protection services, insect pollination, tourism, and mangrove cover of coastlines, and fish nurseries. Investment in forest conservation is therefore expected to deliver significant net returns, estimated at around $39 billion over the next twenty years, or a net present value of $10 billion. The GEF investment will contribute to these national economic benefits by strengthening the management effectiveness of the protected area system.

The project also aims to work closely with the indigenous peoples and local communities for conservation.  Under current laws, there is no legal basis in Myanmar for indigenous peoples and local communities to directly benefit from the economic use of resources inside the protected areas, which overlap with their traditional lands and territories. Consequently, through the Forest Department, the project will review national policy and legislation in order to enable communities to have a greater role in the management of natural forests and a clear mechanism to share the economic benefits derived from the sustainable harvesting of forest products and, potentially, carbon and tourism revenues. At four major demonstration sites, a complex of wildlife reserves covering some of Myanmar’s most pristine mountains, forests and river systems totaling some 2.6 million hectares, the project will pilot options through which local people could benefit financially from the management of the designated areas.

At the site level, the project will bring in socio-economic benefits to approximately 50,000 people in and around the four protected areas. Communities will continue to be able to benefit from access to an improved forest resource base, including NTFP and tourism resources. Safeguards will be put in place for continued access, through full participation of community members in the protected area management operation, with legally agreed sustainable use regimes and monitoring mechanisms. In order to ensure socio-economic benefits and their sustainability, local level activities will be carried out with the participation of local stakeholders, with full consideration given to gender dimensions, by taking into account the different needs and skills of both women and men. Local stakeholders themselves will implement many activities directly, such as community nurseries for important forest products and cash crops to support local livelihoods, and the recruitment of community conservation volunteers in focal communities to support in law enforcement and monitoring activities.

Through the effective protection of key landscapes, globally significant ecosystems and biodiversity, coupled with its increasing accessibility to international tourists, Myanmar’s attraction as an ecotourism destination will continue to increase, with real potential for increasing tourism revenue and employment creation in and around its protected areas, with the potential to benefit local communities.


About the GEF

The Global Environment Facility is a partnership for international cooperation where 183 countries work together with international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector, to address global environmental issues. The GEF serves as financial mechanism for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the Minamata Convention on Mercury. It also works closely with the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances.

Since 1991, the GEF has provided $12.5 billion in grants and leveraged $58 billion in co-financing for 3,690 projects in 165 developing countries. For 23 years, developed and developing countries alike have provided these funds to support activities related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, and chemicals and waste in the context of development projects and programs.  Through its Small Grants Programme (SGP) the GEF has made more than 20,000 grants to civil society and community based organizations for a total of $1 billion.

Among the major results of these investments, the GEF has set up protected areas around the world equal roughly to the area of Brazil; reduced carbon emissions by 2.3 billion tonnes; eliminated the use of ozone depleting substances in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia; transformed the management of 33 major river basins and one-third of the world’s large marine ecosystems; slowed the advance of desertification in Africa by improving agricultural practices—and all this while contributing to better the livelihood and food security of millions of people.

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