The refugee who created a refuge for nature in a conflict zone

Raised in a refugee camp, Paul Sein Twa is one in every of Myanmar’s main environmental defenders. Regardless of residing in a battle zone, he has been instrumental in defending swathes of his homeland

Indigenous leaders throughout the globe are successful gamechanging environmental victories in opposition to the percentages. In our ‘guardians of the wild’ collection, we hear from those that have defeated oil corporations, cancelled mining contracts and gained the precise to stewardship of tens of millions of acres of land, risking their lives to guard the wildest locations on our planet. 

Paul Sein Twa, Myanmar

Paul Sein Twa is an Indigenous Karen chief who grew up in a refugee camp alongside the Thai-Burmese border. He has devoted his life to preserving the Salween River basin, the supply of Asia’s longest free-fowing river, which runs from the Tibetan Plateau south to the Andaman Sea.

As a consequence of years of battle it’s an remoted area, and one of many final remaining intact wildernesses in mainland south-east Asia – dwelling to huge teak forests, endangered pangolins, tigers, clouded leopards, solar bears, gibbons and elephants.

As Myanmar transitions from a army dictatorship to a capitalist democracy, a flood of extractive industries has entered the area, together with mining, logging, dams and agribusiness.

In response, Sein Twa spearheaded a plan to construct a peace park – a method to protect zones of biodiversity and cultural heritage that makes use of conservation to advertise peacebuilding. 

Doing this in a battle zone wasn’t straightforward. He labored with native authorities to mobilise Karen group help, holding public consultations with 348 villages representing some 68,000 folks. They labored with the Karen Forest Division to interchange colonial forestry ideas with their very own conventional practices, and helped communities outline their land borders.

‘Our forests, mountains and rivers are our refuge, the house of our protector spirits,’ says Two. Picture: Brennan O’Connor/The Goldman environmental prize

In 2018, the creation of the 1.35m acre Salween Peace Park was formally declared, a significant victory for peace and conservation in Myanmar, and a defence in opposition to harmful growth within the area.

“Our forests, mountains and rivers are our refuge, the house of our protector spirits, our pharmacy, our sources of meals, and the place the place we discover solace,” Sein Twa mentioned when he was awarded the Goldman environmental prize in 2020. “They’re the inspiration of our tradition that has survived many assaults and has helped us to endure as a folks.”

Important picture: Brennan O’Connor/The Goldman environmental prize

This text is the third in our ‘guardians of the wild’ collection. Over the approaching weeks Constructive Information might be shining a lightweight on the Indigenous teams which are scoring main victories for folks and planet.