Illegal gold mining is threatening Myanmar’s largest inland freshwater lake – which ethnic people in Kachin state depend on for their livelihoods – due to the increasing demand for the precious metal as the country’s economy teeters towards collapse.
U Aung Ko, a 60-year-old ethnic Shan resident in Ma Mon Kaing village at the southern tip of Indawgyi lake, often uses the lake’s water to cool himself down during the heat of the day.
He grew up in the peaceful surroundings of the lake, like the more than 35,000 people living in 13 landlocked villages around it, and has used the lake’s water and resources to survive.
Indawgyi lake is a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Mohnyin Township in the southwest of Kachin State. The people living around it are from the Kachin and Red Shan ethnic groups who mainly farm and graze animals around the lake while fishing in the water – their primary source of protein.