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Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary

Date of Submission: 25/02/2014
Criteria: (x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
State, Province or Region:
Kachin State, Monyin Township
Ref.: 5872
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary (WS) contains Indawgyi Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Myanmar, and a substantial portion of the surrounding forested watershed.  Established in 1999, ILWS covers 73,600 hectares and ranges in elevation from 169 m at the lake surface to over 1,400 m.  The lake drains to the north and includes 12,000 hectares of open water, along with marsh, floating vegetation, and submerged macrophytes.  Rice is cultivated adjacent to the lake in some low-elevation areas, while mixed deciduous forest, riverine evergreen forest, and hill pine forest cover the uplands in the watershed.  Half of ILWS is forest; one-third is non-rice wetland.  Species in ILWS include globally threatened waterbirds and endemic fish and turtle species.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

ILWS is one of the largest lakes in Southeast Asia.  It has outstanding value for birds, containing three CR and two EN species, as well as aggregations of four congregatory waterbirds that comprise a large portion of their global populations.  It contains one endemic turtle and at least three endemic fish species.  It is an Important Bird Area, an ASEAN Heritage Park, and is currently being nominated as a Ramsar site.  The lake’s watershed also supports a diversity of globally threatened wildlife.

Criterion (x): ILWS provides habitat for 10 globally threatened bird species and is of outstanding value for the conservation of migrating waterbirds.  The White-rumped Vulture and Slender-billed Vulture have been reported.  Global populations of these species have decline dramatically as a result of consumption of livestock carcasses containing the veterinary drug diclofenac.  Therefore, populations at ILWS, where diclofenac is not used, are particularly important for the survival of these species.

ILWS contains the Burmese Peacock Turtle, which is endemic to Myanmar.  There are also at least three fish species that are endemic to the lake.  The last systematic fish surveys of the lake were conducted in the 1920s and future surveys may find more endemic species.  Surveys have recorded 448 bird, 41 reptile, 34 amphibian, 64 fish, and 50 butterfly species (Oikos and BANCA 2011; Myanmar Biodiversity 2012).  Species of global conservation importance found in ILWS include: 

Mammals

EN: Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), Hog Deer (Axis porcinus), Shortridge's Langur (Trachypithecus shortridgei)

VU: Bengal Slow Loris (Nycticebus bengalensis), Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Eastern Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock spp.), Himalayan Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus), Northern Pig-tailed Macaque (Macaca leonina), Stump-tailed Macaque (Macaca arctoides)

Reptiles

CR: Burmese Narrow-headed Softshell Turtle (Chitra vandijki)

EN: Burmese Peacock Shoftshell Turtle (Nilssonia Formosa)

VU: Asiatic Softshell Turtle (Amyda cartilaginea), Burmese Eyed Turtle (Morenia ocellata)

Birds

CR: Baer’s Pochard (Aythya baeri), White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis), Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)

EN: Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus)

VU: Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus), Sarus Crane (Grus antigone), Indian Skimmer (Phynchoc albicollis), Wood Snipe (Gallinago nemoricola), Pallas’s Fish-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus), Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga), Indian Spotted Eagle (Aquila hastata), Rufous-necked Hornbill (Aceros nipalensis), Yellow-breasted Bunting (Emberiza aureola)

NT: Black-headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus),Spot-billed Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) and Oriental Darter (Anhinga melanogaster)

Waterbird aggregations of >1% of global population

NT: Spot-billed Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) and Oriental Darter (Anhinga melanogaster)

LC:Greylag Goose (Anser anser), Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio)

Plants

CR: Dipterocarpus tuberculatus

VU: Aquilaria malacensis

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Although areas of paddy rice between the lake and the hills are excluded from ILWS, the low intensity of cultivation, with no use of pesticides or herbicides, minimizes the impact of this land use on the conservation value of the property.  These agricultural areas can be included in a buffer zone of the property to ensure that future development does not degrade the natural values of ILWS.

There are 35,000 people living around Indawgyi on the banks of the lake in 13 villages, 8 of which are populated by indigenous Kachin and 5 of which were settled by migrants in the 1990s.  Whereas the Kachin are rice farmers and fish for subsistence, the migrants fish commercially and often use illegal methods, including fishing during the closed (breeding) season and electric fishing.  This threat has been largely addressed through a public awareness campaign and the introduction of community managed fishing free zones.  In 2012, the annual fish auction to the north of the lake was canceled by the regional government.  This auction had been abused by reselling fishing rights to many fishermen who fished intensively and often tried to settle illegally.

The integrity of ILWS is threatened by hydraulic and small-scale gold mining.  Most of the hydraulic mines are to the west of ILWS and outside its boundary but are located along streams that flow into the lake. Elevated mercury levels and increased sedimentation in the lake have been documented (Than 2006).  The regional government is considering what to do with these mines. 

Overall water quality is good.  Rice cultivation currently does not apply pesticide, herbicide, or significant quantities fertilizer that would diminish water quality.  Solid waste, including from an 80,000 pilgrims who camp by the lake during the Shwemitzu pagoda festival in February, requires improved management.

ILWS receives support from local and international NGOs and is considered to be well managed.  The establishment of the fishing free zones, regular patrolling, reduction of electric fishing and fine-net fishing, the cancellation of the fishing auction, and improved forest management in the watershed, indicate a positive trend in terms of site’s natural values.  Traditional fishing practices also support sustainable management.  Other interventions, including the introduction of fuel-efficient cook stoves and community managed eco-tourism, are underway.

Comparison with other similar properties

Within Myanmar, the most similar site is Inle Lake.  Located in southern Shan State, Inle Lake has a high natural value, especially because of its endemic fish and gastropods.  ILWS, however, is a more important habitat for a greater number of waterbirds.  The primary difference between the two lakes is integrity, with Inle Lake suffering heavy impacts from pollution and sedimentation from agriculture and development around the lake.  The integrity of Inle Lake has been significantly compromised by the promotion of floating gardens since the 1960s.  This has accounted for most of the one-third reduction in open water area since 1935.  These gardens also degrade water quality by introducing agrochemicals that cause eutrophication.  Tourism development has also impacted the lake’s integrity.

Regionally, Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia shares some similarities with Indawgyi.  The Tonle Sap is the largest lake in Southeast Asia (up to 16,000 km2 in the wet season) and is characterized by a unique hydrological regime.  Considering the differences in species assemblage, geophysical characteristics, and integrity, ILWS is a distinct and outstanding example of a freshwater lake.