Story/Photo: Sondang Grace Sirait

The traditional Myanmar Buddhist ritual of lighting oil lamps at pagodas in the evening took on new meaning on Saturday, 25 March 2017, as hundreds of people gathered at the Shwedagon Pagoda to celebrate Earth Hour, the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment.

Diplomats and celebrities rubbed shoulders with students and other volunteers as they joined in a procession around Shwedagon to light oil lamps, a symbolic act intended to remember lives lost to climate change events and to show how small individual acts can have a larger impact.

Among those present were WWF Climate Change Ambassador Dr. Tun Lwin, popular singer-songwriter and WWF Earth Hour Ambassador Bunny Phyoe, as well as Miss Face of Beauty Myanmar 2015 and WWF Youth Ambassador Chuu Sitt Han. The event also attracted some well-known cartoonists such as Khine Thin Thar, D Yay and Thein Tun Oo, who drew environment-themed sketches at the venue.

“Myanmar is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change globally. The climate is already changing and predictions are of dramatic shifts by the mid 2020 and 2050. The Government, partners and communities are taking action. However, we all need to do more. Tonight, by attending Earth Hour at Shwedagon, you are already doing your part to change climate change,” said Christy Williams, Country Director, WWF-Myanmar, who hosted the event.

Just days earlier, WWF-Myanmar, Myanmar Climate Change Alliance, and the Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University, in collaboration with Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC) and the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology (DMH), released a report entitled “Assessing Climate Risk in Myanmar”. The study pointed out how Myanmar’s climate conditions will change by the 2020s and 2050s, including shifts in temperature, precipitation, sea level rise and regional drivers of extreme events related to cyclones and the monsoon.

The first ever celebration of Earth Hour in Yangon also saw lights across the city switched off between 8:30 and 9:30 PM, in a show of solidarity with millions of people across the globe to shine a light on climate action and the potential of people to change climate change. The ceremony at the Shwedagon Pagoda officially marked Myanmar as one of a record 184 countries holding Earth Hour events.

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