The destruction of Myanmar’s forests must be curbed to prevent climate change, environmentalist U Tin Than told Mizzima on April 23.

Calling for amendments to the Environmental Conservation Law so it can be more effective in reducing  the deforestation rate, U Tin Than said his calculations showed that forest cover equivalent in size to Britain or New Zealand was destroyed in Myanmar between 2010 and 2013.

His calculations highlight the accelerated scale of deforestation since the Department of Forestry released figures in 2010 showing that 47 percent of the country was covered by forests. U Tin Than estimates that the figure is now closer to 20 percent.

By comparison, departmental figures for 1998 showed that 59 percent of Myanmar’s 261,228 square miles (676,578 square kilometres) was covered by forest, down by only two percent from 1975.

“Preventing extreme weather and increases in the ultraviolet index is difficult as the causes are spread across every corner of the world,” U Tin Than said.  “We have to play our part and we must do this with the Environmental Conservation Law.”

Meteorologist U Tin Lwin said that “temperatures and the UV index have increased this year and weather patterns have become more extreme in 2014; this affects people’s health, social and economic well-being.”

He agreed that deforestation was a particular concern, adding “this is a worldwide issue;we must act on the basis of improved data and tackle the roots of this problem.”

U Tin Than said the government had implemented small-scale carbon reduction programs, but they were not enough to combat the rate of deforestation. He warned Myanmar could experience even greater climate change if the government does not do more to conserve the environment.