The 5th Green Economy Green Growth (GEGG) Forum for Greening of Cities and Universities was organized by Union Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC) and GEGG (not for profit) Association on 6th December 2016 in Yangon. The forum was attended by H.E Chief Minister of Yangon Region, Deputy Chief of Mission from US Embassy, Yangon, Director General of Department of Research and Innovation (DRI), Rector of University of Yangon and GEGG Chairman. Other professors and responsible personals from Dept. of Research and Innovation (DRI), Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industries (UMFCCI), Myanmar Engineering Society (MES), Association of Myanmar Architects (AMA), Renewable Energy Association of Myanmar (REAM), University of Yangon, Yangon Technological University; Mandalay University, Mandalay Technological University, Dawei University and Union Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock & Irrigation (MOALI), Union Ministry of Construction (MOC) and Union Ministry of Education (MOE). Before that forum, Nay Pyi Taw segment was held on 29 and 30 November 2016.
The forum mainly focused on sustainable green economy, investments in clean energy, micro financing opportunities for green and socially responsible SME development as well as training for capacity building. Dr Zaw Min Naing (Deputy Director General), Dr Hla Myo Aung (Deputy Director) from DRI and I, Dr Aye Aye Thant (as an ASEAN-U.S. 2016-17 S&T Fellow) actively participated in the forum. Dr Zaw Min Naing involved as one of the speakers in the roundtable discussion and he elaborately pointed out the benefits of using renewable energy and the needs to enhance public awareness for clean and green environment. The Q & A session was also impressive and dynamic discussion was made among the participants. It was found that private sectors were also enthusiastic for the development of renewable energy in Myanmar.
The Government of Myanmar is putting efforts to promote green growth and sustainable development. Government of Myanmar and the GEGG Association are organizing the GEGG Forum every year with many partner agencies and promoting the exchange of knowledge between Myanmar and international community on strategic choices toward green growth, green economy. Building upon the past extensive activities, the fifth forum introduces the first practice events that highlight the need for promoting practices in tandem with policies providing the platform for a discourse on a generational opportunity and the pathways for transformational development paradigm change.
Moreover, in my opinion, the two consecutive roundtable discussions in the forum focused on cities and the transformational policies, strategies and practices that are imperative to make cities, in particular Yangon more livable, healthy, safe, clean and green based on issues including low-carbon, net-zero and beyond; building codes, rating and certification systems; role of energy efficient appliances and equipment in green and smart building designs; distributed energy resources; storage and micro-grid systems.
Based on the discussions on greening of buildings and the interconnected infrastructures, all demographic and economic projections envisage the percentage of urban population will increase to over 60% as the current urban population is less than 30 %. This dramatic increase in urbanization will create significant consequences on housing, energy, electricity, water, wastes, and sanitation as well as health and wellbeing of the urban population.
Participants and stakeholders agreed that one of the urgent priorities is electricity supply and it is a need for electricity girds that are more resilient to natural disasters; cyclones, floods, and extreme temperatures. According to the United States, Department of Energy, Myanmar has the opportunity to increase use of distributed energy systems that consist of a range of smaller-scale and modular devices designed to provide electricity. Besides, thermal energy, fossil and renewable energy technologies; photovoltaic arrays, wind turbines and micro turbines are also included.
Importantly, the transformation of the cities which are vulnerable to climate change, into healthy, livable cities depends on the transformation of the way how urban areas are developed and being managed.
From that forum, my understanding is that responsible organizations and concerned citizens need to pay attention to the urban planning experiences from other countries and to develop business practitioners which are parts of the global solutions that should be promoted in Myanmar. Local RE policies to combine industrial promotion and environmental protection measures have to be introduced so that economic growth can be compatible with environmental achievement. Therefore, it would be beneficial if the local government has to build a consensus among relevant stakeholders while identifying potential financial support system for the city to city cooperation in order to implement model projects for local development.
As an ASEAN-U.S. S&T Fellow, I got valuable experience and knowledge concerning with greening in universities and cities. In my view, it is necessary to increase awareness, education and training and foster the paradigm change. It also needs to develop vision and objective of a clan and green campus followed by the development of science, technology, research and management practices. Moreover, I noticed that the business and economic case of waste as a resource is crucial in view of environmental degradation, pollution and resource constraints. One example is that to convert the biodegradable waste into bio fertilizer using different composting methods; and choose the best method for efficiently producing good quality bio-fertilizer. The greening technology has then to disseminate the public as wastes are major health and well-being determinants and have negative visual and aesthetics impacts, affecting the image of a city.
In the forum, the participants recognized the importance of anchoring Myanmar’s economic trajectory on an environmentally sustainable pathway, it will result in the preservation of the priceless natural heritage of Myanmar and the wellbeing of millions of Myanmar people who depend on it. It is also highlighted that Myanmar which is rich and diverse in human and natural resources has the opportunity for transformational paradigm change, transiting from polluting, harmful, wasteful use of resources to greening its economic growth for a prosperous, sustainable, resilience, inclusive and equitable future.
As an ASEAN-U.S. S&T Fellow, profound pleasure generated in my mind because this forum is able to provide fruitful outcomes such as public awareness of the wide use of renewable energy, facilitating Master Plans of greening cities and universities with research, education and leadership development in sustainable use of natural resources, and promoting innovative biomass energy use with advanced technology for rural electrification for the purpose of reducing CO2 emission in order to become green cities and universities in Myanmar.
As an ASEAN-U.S. S&T Fellow, I have a golden opportunity to communicate with RE policy makers, concerned Ministries such as MONREC, MOALI, DRI under MOE, and public organizations such as REAM, and MES, professors from universities and experts and consultants from other countries during my fellowship program. In my knowledge, strong cooperation and coordination among concerned ministries, universities, private sectors, non-government organizations such as REAM, MES could strengthen greening and sustainability in Myanmar. Moreover, strong support of the Government and technical as well as financial assistance of International community play vital important role for RE development in Myanmar. One of the challenging issues is to nurture human resource development with skillful technicians and researchers for sustainable RE development in Myanmar. The investigation also shows that it is urgent need to formulate the policy, strategy, and roadmap to facilitate final goal of renewable energy development in line with ASEAN target.
Finally, 5th GEGG forum fostered sharing of important experiences and practices. It brings together academic research with practitioners, science and technologies. And it provides opportunities to bridge linkages across separate disciplines. The outcome of the forum provided useful ideas and inputs to certain extent for the consideration of green cities and universities development in Myanmar.
About the Author: Dr. Aye Aye Thant is a Professor of Physics and an ASEAN-U.S. S&T Fellow (2016-2017) under the Department of Research and Innovation, Ministry of Education, Myanmar. Through the ASEAN S&T Fellowship, she is working to support the development of national strategies or policies to accelerate use of efficient, clean energy technologies and to promote research & development and human resource for Renewable Energy in Myanmar. Dr. Aye Aye Thant obtained B.Sc. (Honours) in Physics from Mandalay University, Myanmar (1995), M.Sc. in Physics from University of Yangon, Myanmar (1999) and Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering under sandwich program between Universiti Sains Malaysia and Tokyo Institute of Technology (2010).