Ecosystem services assessment of Inlay Lake for Himalica

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As part of ICIMOD’s Himalica programme, a comprehensive ecosystem services assessment was conducted from 17 April to 9 May 2014 in three villages around Inlay Lake. Inlay Lake is situated in Shan State and is the second largest lake in Myanmar. The survey was supported by the Department of Forest in Shan State and covered 179 households in the villages of Zay Gon (lowland commercial area), Kyar Taw (wetlands), and Kyaung Taung (mountains). The survey was supplemented by resource mapping and focus group discussions.

The assessment found that the communities around Inlay Lake have different dependencies on their surrounding ecosystems. The communities living in the commercial market area are indirectly dependent on wetlands, forests, and agroecosystems for the supply of goods and services for consumption and to generate economic benefits. Similarly, communities living in the mountain villages are largely dependent on agroecosystems, but have links with the market areas where they sell their produce. The village inside Inlay Lake is highly dependent on wetland ecosystems for fish and transportation, as well as on agroecosystems (floating gardens) for subsistence and to generate income. Tourism also plays a vital role in the wetland areas and there is a strong link between tourism and the service sector in the wetlands (boats, lodges, and restaurants provide services to tourists), which helps some of the local communities living in and around the lake and in the lowland market areas. 

The assessment also looked at people’s perceptions on the condition of Inlay Lake itself and nearby ecosystems such as forest and agroecosystem over the last 10 years. Local people expressed the belief that pollution in Inlay Lake has increased. The communities from Kyar Taw village no longer use water from the lake wetlands for household and drinking purposes. Now they rely on spring water from the eastern mountain side of Inlay Lake. Difficulties with freshwater availability, education, and transportation are some of the challenges being faced by local communities in the study area. In addition, Pomacea canalicilata, a non-native freshwater snail, is causing a lot of damage to agricultural crops in the floating gardens. Pomacea canalicilata is now being used as a food source for fish farm in the villages. Due to the decline in availability of fish in Inlay Lake, some people from Kyar Taw village have taken up agricultural activities. However, some people mentioned that the low water level and lack of money have led them to abandon their floating gardens. 

It is interesting to note that each village around Inlay Lake has its own livelihood option. For example, Kyar Taw is known for its fisheries, fuelwood comes from Kyaut Taing village, and vegetables from Kay Lar village. It seems that each village around Inlay Lake has its own role to play and the villages depend on each other for their wellbeing through the flow of ecosystem goods and services. It would be interesting to map the flow of services, dependency on services, and sufficiency of services in this region. 

Eggs of fresh water snail, Pomacea canalicilata 

Photo: Aye Myat Thandar