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Livable Cities

Inle – a Transition towards the City of Organic Agriculture

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     Inle is the large freshwater lake located in the lower Shan state, Myanmar. It is 11.25 kilometers wide and 22.5 kilometers long, covering an area of 158 square kilometers. It represents the untouched and beautiful nature with high ranges of mountains. This lake is the residence of Intha people or the sons of the lake who bear different ethnicity from other Tai villagers of Shan state. In total, there are 36 villages and among them, 32 are situated in the middle of the lake.

 

     The Inle Lake and its city are well-known for the Intha’s floating vegetable gardens, so-called Kyunpaws. The background of this traditional wisdom is rooted in the ancestors of Intha people who emigrated from Bagan. They had leant to adapt to the environment by growing vegetables in the lake. At the outset, the swamp rice grass grown abundantly around the lake was cut and tied into a raft of 1-meter wide and 10-meter long. Once the roots are removed from soil, these rafts are pulled away from the shore into the lake. Usually at the depth of 4-6 meters, the long bamboo sticks are used to pin the grass rafts with the lakebed keeping them from being afloat. Afterwards the slush from the lakebed which is fertile with organic materials of underwater plants and seaweed are placed over the grass raft. The cycle goes on. As soon as the new grass grows, the slush is again placed on top. This continues until the grass raft is 50 centimeters thick, the plantation is then started.

     The main plant species in Inle Lake is tomato. Here is known as the largest tomato plantation field in Myanmar where averagely 50 tons of tomatoes are produced in a day. Some farmers shift to grow other plant species after planting tomatoes to prevent the spread of disease and pests. In order to harvest their agricultural products, farmers can walk over the grass rafts or paddle around. These grass rafts can be used over and over again. Most of the rafts have the life span of 10-15 years or more.

 

     These vegetable gardens neither require watering nor suffer from drought or floods. The most disastrous natural catastrophe is storm as it takes away the floating rafts or submerges the plants. The floating plantation in the Inle Lake is, therefore, the development of prototype in agricultural innovation to adapt to global climate change with more frequent and severe drought or floods in the future.

     However, the farmers currently increase the use of chemical in agriculture to raise the productivity. In addition, they throw away perished products or those unmatched with the market standards into the lake causing the deterioration of water quality. The Inle Lake supplies freshwater to almost half population for consumption in lower Shan State. The degraded water quality in Inle Lake will affect a large number of people.

     As a result, the Inle Special Development Association (ISDA) has prepared the pilot plantation project in order to reduce the use of chemicals in the floating vegetable gardens of Inle Lake, Taunggyi city – the capital of Shan state. Nonetheless, the main targeted consumers are tourists visiting Inle Lake.

     This project has received financial support in the amount of 24,000 dollars US from the Norwegian government and technical recommendations from Israeli experts. It has started since February 2013, beginning with the plantation in 65 plots of floating gardens situated in the East of Inle Lake. The plant species in preparation are Japanese cucumber, papaya, and pepper.

     However, the targeted consumers are foreign tourists visiting. Ko Yay Aye, the chair of ISDA revealed that the objectives of this project are to pilot the organic agriculture and to expand this concept to other farmers in Myanmar. Nonetheless, according to him, the domestic consumers prefer cheaper vegetables. The organic vegetables are still not the key option of consumers in Myanmar as these are expensive. It is expected that over the long term, the production cost of organic products will be lessened to the level lower than the chemical counterparts. At that price scale, the domestic consumers then can consume safe food cultivated by environmental-friendly process.

    The ideal city is actually in existence but can only be created with the joint efforts from its residents. Organic agriculture is considered as one of the alternatives in sustainable production and consumption. With our hope and morale support, the floating vegetable gardens of Inle Lake can be transformed from chemical-based agriculture into the city of organic agriculture. Inle thus becomes a role model of livable and sustainable city.

 

 

 


Source :

  • http://www.allmyanmar.com/Shan-State.html
  • http://www.terragalleria.com/asia/myanmar/inle/picture.myan4777.html
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