Evolving environmental governance under a regime in transition

Authored by: Adam Simpson

Routledge Handbook of the Environment in Southeast Asia

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  September  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415625210
eBook ISBN: 9781315474892
Adobe ISBN: 9781315474885


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The way the environment has been historically perceived in Myanmar (Burma) is strongly linked to its turbulent and authoritarian political history (Simpson et al., 2017). Concepts such as ‘the environment’ and ‘environmentalism’ have appeared relatively recently in mainstream Myanmar discourses, with traditional interpretations of nature tending to focus on exploitable natural resources. Myanmar is extremely geographically and ecologically diverse, stretching from northern snow-capped mountains through the flatlands of the central dry zone to the palm-dotted beaches of the southern tropical coasts and islands. Governance of the ecosystems in these complex environments is still in its infancy. While most countries in the world have well-entrenched laws ensuring that public participation, environmental impact assessment (EIA) and social impact assessment (SIA) are key components of any major development activities, these types of legislated requirements have historically been absent from Myanmar. Between 1962 and 2011, Myanmar was ruled by authoritarian governments that had little interest in or inclination for environmental protection or community consultation. While there existed forestry laws, including those that recognized community forests, and a Land Acquisition Act, which was meant to regulate compensation for farmers, there were no laws that adequately regulated pollution or protected biodiversity and no law existed that took a holistic approach to the management or protection of the environment overall.

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