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Myanmar's forests fall victim to conflict

Environmental groups curb activity even as illegal logging increases

The Karen Environmental and Social Action Network, or KESAN, works with local communities to protect wildlife and biodiversity in an area of eastern Myanmar. However, its task has been overshadowed by the conflict engulfing parts of the country. (All photos courtesy of KESAN)

BANGKOK -- From Kalaw town's bamboo forest to the Hsipaw Reserved Forest in Shan State and the freshwater swamps that flank the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar's forests rank among the world's most dramatic natural landscapes. But the country's civil war is threatening conservation programs and facilitating illegal logging on a massive scale.

"Big booming pieces of conservation cannot happen under the current conditions because the ability to do great policy work and influence the whole chain is harder," said Christy Williams, the former country director of the nongovernmental organization World Wide Fund for Nature in Myanmar, who was speaking in a personal capacity.

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