In Myanmar, land disputes and displacement are widespread and likely to worsen as the effects of climate change increase across the country. Based on DS’ many years of experience working in Myanmar, it is clear that without appropriate counter-measures and innovative policies, conflict over land is likely to increase as large numbers of people affected by rising sea levels and worsening storms can no longer remain in their homes along the country’s lengthy coastline and seek to relocate to higher ground. If not managed properly, this process could all too easily result in tension, violence, and even new forms of conflict. In policy terms, therefore, DS strongly believes that there is a pressing need in Myanmar to identify and allocate land at a level commensurate with the scale of present and likely future climate displacement in the development of domestic strategies and laws to address the problem.
The establishment of a Myanmar National Climate Land Bank (MNCLB) would act as the central institutional tool in this process. The aim of the MNCLB would be to set up land set-aside programmes of parcels of State land in a bid to prevent land conflict and resolve climate displacement in a rights-based manner throughout the country. Once in place, the MNCLB will provide a basis for developing concrete policies that tie together four vital policy threads: conflict prevention, climate change, displacement and access to land.
DS and our local Myanmar partners Ecodev recently initiated the MNCLB Project by carrying out an initial exploratory field mission to the vulnerable coastal villages of Shwe Sar Yan and Boe Tauk Khone in Bogalay Township from 26 April and 2 May 2017. The DS-Ecodev team, working closely with local officials, consulted a range of local residents and village and regional authorities to assess the current climate change challenges facing villagers, the willingness of villagers to relocate to safer areas further inland should livelihoods become untenable or unsafe due to future climate change affects and the availability of arable land in the greater area suitable as potential relocation sites. The team is now compiling the findings of the mission that will form a key element of a major report on the MNCLB assessing the general feasibility of the land bank concept, in a report to be released later this year.
The DS-Ecodev team explored land site options for future climate relocation in the area and discussed these efforts extensively with villagers in the area: