News FocusBiodiversity

As Isolation Ends, Myanmar Faces New Ecological Risks

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Science  17 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6096, pp. 796-797
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6096.796

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Summary

Myanmar's environment is at a crossroads, its fate hinging on how recent reforms reshape the country. In his 17 months in office, President Thein Sein has legalized labor unions, rolled back censorship, and released hundreds of imprisoned dissidents. In April, Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to run for parliament, winning handily after spending much of the last 20 years under house arrest. Encouraged by those developments, the United States and other countries have eased sanctions on the long-isolated country, opening the floodgates to foreign investment. Some observers fear that will be bad news for biodiversity: The government, they contend, won't try to keep developers on a short leash. Others are optimistic that Myanmar's leaders will embrace a sustainable path.

  • * Charles Schmidt is a writer in Portland, Maine.