Planning and Applying Mitigating Measures to Green Transport Infrastructure in Myanmar and Thailand

This is a project that was implemented from January to March 2015 by IENE and WWF.

Based on the need of support, international cooperation and exchange of knowledge and experience, IENE and WWF developed a short scale project in Southeast Asia. It was focused on the planning of the Dawei road, which will connect the cities of Dawei in south Myanmar with Bangkok in Thailand.

The donors who supported the project was:

  • Helmsley Charitable Trust,
  • Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA),
  • WWF-Austria, WWF-Germany, Dawna Tenasserim Landscape Integrity Project

 

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or read the project summary below.

 

Background

As the need for modern transport network improvement is inevitable and can’t be excluded for the Greater Mekong Region in Southeast Asia, the same time the development of linear transport infrastructure poses a serious threat to wildlife. A highly important conflict area is in the mountainous Tenasserim Region in Myanmar and Thailand, where the planned Dawei road and railway project will cross the most intact forest areas in the Greater Mekong Region. New species are still being found in these unexplored forests and they sustain the largest populations of tiger and elephant in Southeast Asia.

In autumn, 2014, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) participated at the IENE International Conference in Malmo, Sweden with the presence of representatives of the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry of Myanmar, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ministry of Transport and National Parks and Protected areas Innovation Institute of Thailand, invited Infra Eco Network Europe (IENE) to assist in finding environmentally friendly solutions to problems that will result from road and railway development in this area and the kick off of the development of a special short project took place.

Project goals

A project was set up with the cooperation of WWF, IENE and the Austrian Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology with two purposes:

  • a) To organize a systematic exchange knowledge and experiences on Green (ecologically adapted) Linear Infrastructure with important stakeholders in national-ministerial, regional and local-social level,
  • b) To evaluate the environmental impact on habitat fragmentation of the alignment of the trans-boundary high speed motorway between Bangkok in Thailand and Dawei in Myanmar and to propose a framework of recommendations for an appropriate design of the alignment.

Project implementation

To achieve the above goals a three-person team from IENE spent two weeks in Myanmar and Thailand in February 2015 aiming on organization of special technical and scientific meetings with relevant authorities and conducting fieldwork along the proposed route.

Meetings

The IENE team participated in four meetings in the region:

  1. The highly international 4th “Green Economy, Green Growth” (GEGG) Forum with contributing to a special Parallel Session (3.1.2): “Moving Forward: Developing Environmentally Sustainable Transport Infrastructure in Myanmar” in Naw Pyi Taw, the capital of Myanmar, 3-4 February 2015.
  2. A Thailand – Myanmar Trans-boundary “Civil Society Introductory Meeting on Green Transport Infrastructure” in Kanchanaburi with representatives from both Thailand and Myanmar, 9 February 2015.
  3. A policy seminar on “Green Transport Infrastructure” attended by Thai and Malaysian experts, 11 February 2015, and
  4. A technical workshop on “Green Transport Infrastructure” attended by engineers, lawyers and conservationists of relevant ministries in Bangkok, 12 February 2015, Thailand.

Unfortunately, the planned meetings with the national and the regional government in the region of Dawei as well as the field visit in Myanmar were cancelled due to administrative reasons.

Aiming to exchange knowledge and experiences based on environmental principles for transport development in Europe, the IENE working team, in close cooperation with the members of WWF Myanmar and WWF Thailand, established a framework of presentations which covered a variety of important topics as:

  1. The environmental strategy and policy in the European Union related with green linear infrastructure.
  2. The legal framework with the appropriate legal tools existing and implemented in Europe on estimating, avoiding and mitigating the environmental impact of the roads.
  3. Introduction of the negative impacts on the environment in case of inappropriate design of the construction of a road.
  4. Introduction of the basic principles of the appropriate design and how to avoid, mitigate or compensate the environmental impact of a road construction.
  5. Sharing best practices ranged from trans-boundary agreements to environmentally friendly road designing.
  6. Sharing best practices from green transport infrastructure development including, connectivity and mitigation of negative impacts on wildlife migration from roads and railways construction, as well as the construction of wildlife passages and their effective monitoring.
  7. Introduction of basic principles of ecosystem services and the values of roadless and low traffic areas.

IENE talks attracted more than 230 participants, including ministerial decision-makers (e.g., general directors) in both countries. As a first result the IENE team received invitations from both Myanmar and Thailand to come again to help develop solutions that will minimize the negative environmental impacts of transportation infrastructure.

Field visits

Aiming to better understand the physical situation of the landscape, the character and the situation of the local natural habitats, as well as the land use by humans and the humans – nature intervention profile, the initial schedule included a field visit in both Myanmar and Thailand Dawei road alignment areas. Due to safety and administrative reasons, the fieldtrip schedule had to be modified, which finally resulted in the cancellation of the planned visit to the Dawei region in Myanmar, thus allowing more time for working on the Thai side of the impact area. The project working team visited the region between Kanchanaburi and the Myanmar – Thailand borders in Thailand giving a general approach of two candidate routes alignments presented in Map 1.

The field visits included local investigation with the following schedule and stops indicated approximately in the Kanchanaburi Routes Map (Map 1):

  • Friday February 6: After travelling from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi by bus the IENE – WWF team made field visit to the Dawei road to the Thai – Myanmar borders at a level of the second half (western) of the South proposed route (Route 4 at the Map 1).
  • Saturday February 7: On this day the working team visited specific north areas as the Sai York National Park. The visit in the Sai York National Park gave the team important knowledge about the wildlife presence in the area, the habitat types, the vegetation cover of the area, the National Park protection system in Thailand, the migration routes of the tigers to the Myanmar side and the importance of the area as cornerstone for conservation of the biodiversity in the Greater Mekong Region.
  • Sunday February 8: The working team field visit included sections of both North (1) and complementary visits of the South route (4) along the Dawei road alignment between Kanchanaburi and the Myanmar – Thai borders. At the afternoon a visit to Salak-phra Wildlife Sanctuary took place.

Map1

Map 1. Kanchanaburi region with two candidate routes alignments

Results and Recommendations

The IENE team, based on the experience in Europe, more specifically, proposes eight general recommendations for the countries in the Greater Mekong Region as basic Green Transport Infrastructure Principles:

  1. The legal structure for green infrastructure must be established and strengthened.
  2. Strategic planning need to precede any major development projects.
  3. Civil society has to be involved in the planning phase of linear infrastructure projects.
  4. Establish multi-disciplinary cooperation among different professionals such as engineers and environmentalists.
  5. The “Polluter pays” principle must be implemented by including concrete mitigation measures right from the beginning of the planning phase until the tendering and contracting phase.
  6. Maintenance of mitigation measures must be included in the budget of the ordinary program for maintenance of the actual infrastructure.
  7. Environmental supervision of technical features of the infrastructure and monitoring of the habitat and wildlife populations’ status should be required for all phase of the projects from design to full operation.
  8. A culture of learning, must be established to build up and support continuous evaluation and exchange of knowledge and experience between the interested, relevant and authorized organisations and state services.

After several days of fieldwork, and evaluation the adaptation of the proposed alignments to the local landscape, practical suggestions were made about the proposed road routes that would go west through Kanchanaburi to the Myanmar border. Mitigation solutions for keeping wild elephants away from roads were proposed after consulting local experts from the Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary who have been experimenting with using ditches and electric fences to keep elephants away from highways.

Epilogue

IENE as European network of organizations, NGOs, institutions, academic authorities and experts has implement a variety of activities in Europe supporting wildlife and biodiversity conservation through the sustainable implementation of linear infrastructure tasks or supporting defragmentation projects. The currently implemented project on “Planning and Applying Mitigating Measures to Green Transport Infrastructure” in Myanmar and Thailand is a pioneer step for the development of IENE cooperation in an international level and WWF has made that achievement possible. Estimating the results of the project according to the working team presences in Myanmar and Thailand and the fruitful cooperation with WWF colleagues, IENE is sure that the lessons that were transferred to the Greater Mekong Region from Europe will be a start for the development of Green Policy in the transport infrastructure sector in Asia.

IENE is looking forward to establish a permanent framework of cooperation especially as a concrete goal of an international meeting on elephant mitigation measures has already been discussed and IENE will be ready for such a new challenge.

Acknowledgements

IENE is thankful for the support and cooperation of WWF Myanmar and especially Mrs Hanna Helsingen, Senior Green Economy Policy Officer, WWF Thailand and especially Wandee Krichanan, DTL Integrity Project Manager, as well as the Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology of Austria for making their Southeast Asian mission possible.

Dedicated to Miklós

This work was the last field work of our colleague and best friend Dr. Miklós Puky. We started together in September 2014 to plan and prepare the overall schedule of the project. His loss, due to a heart attack, a few weeks after our intense and extremely active presence in Myanmar and Thailand, makes us hardly sad while the deliverables and any kind of products of the project will be always uncompleted without him. We all miss the unique way of Miklós’ point of view, accompanied by his energetic smile.

P1040240

The last road killing photo of Miklos on 6th February 2015, Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

 

/ The co-authors Lazaros Georgiadis, Elke Hahn, Anders Sjölund.

 

Reference: Georgiadis L., E. Hahn, A. Sjölund, M. Puky, 2015. “Planning and Applying Mitigating Measures to Green Transport Infrastructure” in Myanmar and Thailand. Project report. WWF Myanmar, WWF Thailand, IENE, Calluna AB, Linköping, Sweden. P. 18 (Annexes).

This page was last updated: October 5, 2015