Deforestation ‘exacerbated’ floods impact: ADB expert

Deforestation in mountainous areas of Myanmar had “clearly” exacerbated the effect of this year’s devastating floods, an Asian Development Bank specialist told Voice of America last week.

“Clearly, the deforestation, at least in the mountains or the hills or in the deforested areas, led to some exacerbated impact of the floods,” Peter Brimble told the broadcaster.

“It seems pretty obvious,” said Mr Brimble, who is based in Myanmar.

The natural disaster had generated discussion about deforestation, Richard Casagrande, Myanmar flood operations manager for the International Federation of Red Cross, told VOA, in a report aired on September 24.

“There’s a lot of talk that deforestation, particularly in the hill areas, must have contributed to the floods being more violent – the flash flood element – and it seems intuitive that’s true,” Mr Casagrande said.

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“I have to admit I haven’t actually seen any hard evidence, but we suspect that is true, particularly parts where we know deforestation is happening,” he said.

The broadcaster quoted the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as saying Myanmar faced a crisis because an average of more than 540,000 hectares (about 1.33 million acres), of forest cover had been lost each year since 2010.

The FAO says forests play a key role in combating rural poverty, ensuring food security and livelihoods, as well as conserving vital biodiversity.

VOA quoted a September 17 report by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency that said about 900,000 cubic metres of timber was transported illegally from northern Myanmar to China each year.

Myanmar banned log exports in April 2014.

The flooding was the most severe in a decade. It claimed more than 100 lives, affected more than 1.6 million people throughout the country and damaged almost 400,000 hectares of farmland, much of which was rice paddy.

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