THE SALWEEN PEACE PARK:
The Salween is a transboundary river connecting the people, ecosystems, and states of China, Myanmar, and Thailand. Over its 2,820 kilometer course, more than 10 million people live throughout its basin, comprising at least 16 ethnic groups, many of whom depend on a river that represents a multifaceted habitat of spiritual, cultural, ecological, and political values. In Southeastern Myanmar's Karen State, watersheds and forests hosting some of the richest biodiversity in the region, are also the site of what's often considered the world's longest-running civil war, fought between Burmese and Karen armed forces.
In the years following a renowned democratic transition, away from half a century of military dictatorship, the first ceasefire agreements were signed since the start of the Karen revolution in 1949. Yet, militarization and sporadic clashes continued, leading to unabated displacement.
In 2018, local communities from Mutraw District, the nucleus area of the Karen revolution, established a 5,485 square-kilometre Indigenous and Community Conserved Area (ICCA) in the Salween basin, hoping to revitalize their natural and cultural heritage, shattered from more than seventy years of armed conflict.
Karen communities who across generations have evolved around traditional practices, view the natural environment as a home and source of food security, culture and social identity. At its heart, this ongoing work is an exploration of the coexistence between environmental and cultural conservation, built upon Karen's indigenous knowledge, sacred rituals and cultural practices that demonstrate their intimate relationship with the local biodiversity.