A new ecotourism initiative will be developed to ensure visitors to Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary in Kachin state contribute positively to its ongoing conservation management, a nature conservation group said.
High level representatives from the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry and Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MoHT) joined hands to agree on the importance of engaging local stakeholders in developing a tourism strategy for the lake and its globally important wildlife.
Vice Minister of MoHT, Dr Sai Kyaw Ohne, said that creating a responsible, sustainable tourism strategy that involved and engaged local communities could prevent mistakes that have been made during the development of other regions, including Inle Lake, that can lead to serious environmental degradation.
“This programme can help to support everyone who lives here and is a good example for other communities in the country, other countries in the region, and in fact other parts of the world,” Dr Sai Kyaw Ohne said.
A workshop to discuss the new strategy was held, involving local community representatives, the Myanmar Tourism Federation and Myanmar Tourism Association representing the private sector, and relevant government agencies.
Attendees agreed on a vision for responsible tourism development at Indawgyi Lake that would help to conserve the natural and cultural heritage of the area, while providing real economic benefits to local people.
The workshop builds on the momentum created by Fauna & Flora International’s (FFI) launch of a community-based ecotourism initiative at Indawgyi Lake late last year.
FFI helped community members from Lonton Village at Indawgyi Lake to form ‘Inn Chit Thu – Lovers of Indawgyi’, a community group dedicated to support local livelihoods through the development of ecotourism.
FFI has provided training to the young villagers, as well as kayaks and mountain bikes that can be rented to tourists to explore the beautiful nature of the lake and its surrounding forests.
“We are supporting sustainable ecotourism which creates revenues for local communities,” says Frank Momberg, FFI Myanmar Director.
“The kayaks in particular offer a nature experience in complete lake serenity, instead of joining the tourist hordes in noisy motorboats on Inle Lake, which is Myanmar’s most visited natural site.”
Before FFI’s Inn Chit Thu initiative, Indawgyi tourists could only experience the lake through an expensive motorboat ride – now tourists can choose kayaks, bicycles and walks instead, having an opportunity to feel closer to nature, and without using noisy, unsustainable and expensive methods.
Despite quadrupling visitors since the launch of Inn Chit Thu, international tourists to Indawgyi Lake remain very small, an area the group hope to build in coming seasons.
Indawgyi Lake is still in a pristine state with thousands of migratory birds arriving each winter from their long journey starting in Siberia for resting and wintering in Indawgyi, turning the lake into a heaven for bird watchers and nature tourists. It is hoped that by following a strategy for responsible tourism in a protected area, tourism can help to balance the needs for nature conservation and economic development.