PERREAULT Magazine October 2014 - Page 70

Perreault Magazine - 70 -

Inle Lake, Burma (Myanmar)

A Little Water…Floating Gardens, Fishing, and Farming on the Inle Lake

Growing up I didn’t much care about the word “ecosystem.” I took many classes on Florida history (they made us study state history extensively–at least twice before graduation!), and the Florida Everglades was one of those places I took for granted until I reached adulthood, started to care more about the environment and realized “holy cow, there are some intricate and interesting ecosystems!”

This epiphany carried over to the present, and into my days navigating the marshy waters, thin canals and open expanse of rippling waters on Inle Lake in Burma. The most iconic photos of Inle Lake picture the fishermen, their conical nets resting on long wooden boats as the men paddle with one leg wrapped like a vine around the wooden oar digging into the placid lake waters. It’s a beautiful, practical custom that, in all its “foreignness” to the Western eye, pulled my focus as I marveled at the old-school nets in place of a modern fishing pole, the lazy motion of leg-led rowing and not a boat motor.

The male fishermen stand on the bow of the boat so they can see down to the lake floor, and their legs are a powerful way to more easily row through the marshy weeds that grow nearly to the surface

since Inle Lake averages just seven feet deep.

But that’s just one tiny, indelible piece of life on Inle Lake.

The super productive ecosystem around this shallow 44.9 square mile lake created a separate lake culture, different from the Bamar majority in Burma, and even different from the Shan minority group, even though Inle Lake is within Burma’s Shan State.

Instead, an Intha culture and language grew, specific to Inle, where the lake and its ecosystem have allowed the culture to thrive.

by Shannon O'Donnell