Development of natural land use plan for Myanmar now becomes a major concern among decision makers and sectoral agencies. Although full extent of the national land use plan could not have been developed, some areas of interest which are of national significance are surveyed and land use maps and land capability classification maps are produced with the use of remote sensing and GIS technologies, but those land use mapping are forestry oriented. These areas are deltaic area in lower Myanmar, Kinda and Inlay areas in the Shan State (Eastern Myanmar) and Kabaw Valley (north-west Myanmar). Production of land use map for Bago Yoma area, which is natural home of the finest teak-stands is also in process. It is conceived that land use plan covering the entire country will follow in the immediate future, partly due to growing issues of land use conflicts and competition among government agencies and partly due to increased awareness of the need for an umbrella multi-sectoral land use plan among public decision makers and higher authorities.
Forest land degradation and deforestation in Myanmar reflect an interaction between forest, forest landuse and the overall development of the society. The Government of Myanmar is fully conscious of the importance of people's awareness and participation in forestry development activities to ensure a sustainable relationship between people and the forest resource base. Accordingly, all out efforts have been made to mobilize the rural community for ensuring their active participation in forestry development programmes. It has moved beyond the realms of traditional forestry which involve masses of trees far distant from the people into forestry which involves masses of people in close proximity to trees and trees forming an integral part of the society's environment.
Human development initiatives have been undertaken through various projects within the forestry sector to uplift the rural and sustenance economy. Initiatives such as village resource conservation/management plans have proved to be important for preventing or containing forest degradation and deforestation. Initiatives has also been undertaken to grant forestry credits for the establishment of plantations under the Community Forestry Rule. Under section 14 and 15 of the forest enactment anybody including villagers can establish firewood, industrial or commercial plantations. NGO's participation has also recently been encouraged to enlist people's participation.
Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE) has the sole monopoly in the harvesting, processing and export of teak. The private sector operates in non-teak hardwood processing industry with harvesting responsibility generally vested in MTE. Harvesting plans are prescribed for short and long-term and are generally adhered to, but the planning of harvesting operations is essentially a "2 pass system" where teak is harvested first and other species later. Teak is first girdled and then harvested. There is substantial backlog of girdled trees left standing without harvest and non harvest of girdled teak for long period results in loss of increment. Normally, teak logs are floated down the streams to the rafting stations and it takes some 6-8 years. However, with the switch over to the trucking system there is a significant saving of time and the loss in transit is also minimized.
The road standards vary according to the quantity of timber to be transported from the dumping station and feeder roads are constructed to last for 3 years or more depending on the duration of the plan of extraction. There is much room for improvement in logging and road specifications. The existing forest roads being temporary in nature are built, washed out, relocated and re-built annually at cost which could be avoided and destruction to soil and terrain controlled. Logging equipment are not in good repair and are over utilized beyond their prescribed economic life as there is a foreign exchange/spare parts/ replacement equipment problem, confronting the logging industry.
The current issues are improvement of the current logging systems, prevention of heavy logging waste and harvesting of lesser known species. The Forest Department as well as the MTE have the responsibility to ensure and organize scientific logging, prevent timber poaching and minimize damage to forest floors and lost of timber in transit. However, existing institutional capacity is unable to enforce scientific logging or to control heavy logging waste and loss of timber in transit.
In Myanmar, initial adoption of market economy was announced in September 1988. As a result, many private timber companies become involved in the timber industries, but all of them are only at the initial stage and need protection, care and assistance for healthy and continued growth. In the course of transforming towards market economy, private companies in the forestry sector began to face with the problem of shortage of timber supply under the practice of granting timber concessions, issue for a period of 1-3 year. This short period of timber concessions did not attract the concession holders for investment or marketing because their future business was uncertained. The solution may lie in issuing timber concessions to the bonafide timber traders or processors for a reasonably longer period (e.g. 15 years), which will enable the concession holders to invest with credit facilities. Then, the market promotion will be an essential part of the committed investment. At that time, the MTE was beset with its own problems such as potential competition with private companies in the aspects of employing skilled workers, the need for flexibility in decision making to promote marketing, and to improve salary structure and working incentives. Other common problems for both MTE and private companies are shortage of power supply, spare parts and diesel. Timber concessions were stopped by the end of 1993. Myanmar, as mentioned above, has emphasized on the reduction of log export gradually to completely stop within a deadline. Local processing of log into value added products will create employment opportunities, generate more income earning in terms of foreign currency, and encourage utilization of other species including lesser used species (LUS).
To promote the market economy, the Govt. of the Union of Myanmar has formed the Privatization Commission on January 9, 1995, to oversee and ensure the successful implementation of the privatization process. A Valuation Committee was also formed to value the economic state-owned enterprises, except those which are of national importance. The primary objective of privatizing the state-owned enterprises is to facilitate the process of market-oriented economy. Apart from the primary objective, privatization has the following secondary objectives among others:
· to increase production and export;
· to achieve the most effective and efficient use of the country's natural resources;
· to attract more foreign investments; and
· to promote technology development and create job opportunities.