Sagaing Region struggling to jump-start wildlife tourism project amid scarce funds
Despite having the most forest cover in Myanmar, the Sagaing regional government is struggling to jump-start its wildlife tourism program due to a lack of money to implement it, said a senior official.
U Than Htay, a member of the regional Tourism Development Committee, said Sagaing hosts the second biggest protected areas in the country and home to two famous wildlife sanctuaries – the Mahamyaing and Htamanthi wildlife sanctuaries.
The regional government has identified a total of eight possible areas conducive for ecotourism, including the two famous sanctuaries, but the development of these places into tourist areas have been slow due to lack of budget, said U Than Htay, who is also an aide of Sagaing Chief Minsiter U Myint Naing.
“For example, in Chattin Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a natural habitat of deer, we started inviting tourists eight months ago. We established the deer watching area in that sanctuary and renovate the museum, and build the entrance road with K50 million budget,” U Than Htay told The Myanmar Times.
But U Than Thya said lot more work needs to be done for the sanctuary in order to accommodate more tourists.
He said the poor management of the sanctuary wildlife areas had led to the deforestation and these need intensive rehabilitation. There is also a need to hire armed security guards to protect the forests from heavily armed illegal loggers and hunters.
“The infrastructure for tourism is obviously needed,” he added, adding that there is no special budget for environmental conservation, making it hard to implement the wildlife tourism program.
Earlier last week, regional officials visited the Htamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary to identify new tourist zones and places where forest reserve is not damage, and convert them into tourists spots.
The officials noted a potential of tourists travelling on a stream to watch the different wildlife living in the area, but the government has to invest in “no-noise” motor boats in order not to scare the deer and birds and other animals there.
U Soe Lwin, Sagaing Region chief auditor said it would take at least two more years to implement the tourism project as the regional government faces a lot of challenges in promoting wildlife tourism.
U Thaung Naing Oo, a tourist guide, said wildlife tourism can provide sustainable livelihood for people living in the vicinity of the forests.
“A lot of villagers can benefit from the wildlife tourism program if it gains momentum,” he said.
Source: Myanmar Times 24 October 2017