Bawsai in Shan State is familiar to many Myanmar people as a remote area known to be plentiful in minerals but lacking in safe drinking water.
Since childhood, we have learned about Bawsai as it is described in geography books. Bawsai, rich in mineral resources, is home to the majority Danu ethnic tribe, with a minority of Pa-O and Bamar people.
Bawsai regularly faced a scarcity of water, causing hardships for the ethnic people.
“We don’t need gold, we need water” was a popular slogan in the region.
Today, the local ethnics can access water from water supply facilities, and the region is now accessible by road.
What is even more joyous for Bawsai residents is the establishment of Bawsai Hospital. In the past, unknown illnesses and lengthy journeys to faraway hospitals in Heho and Taunggyi resulted in the loss of many lives.
The 16-bed hospital was inaugurated recently with the presence of the Union Minister for Health and Sports Dr Myint Htwe, local authorities, members of Parliament and representatives of the philanthropic organisation Kanbawza Brighter Future Myanmar Foundation.
While touring in Shan State, I came across an invitation letter to the opening of the hospital and market. I then headed to Bawsai.
I left in the early morning hours of 7 April and saw locals collecting water from the tubewells and reservoir on Bawsai Road that had been donated by KBZ Brighter Future Myanmar Foundation. I asked a local resident about the accessibility to water, and he gleefully told me they now had 24-hour access to clean water. Before, they had to travel seven miles just to get water from a lake with water so stagnant that it was almost impossible to drink.
Continuing on to Bawsai, I saw water taps and tubewells in each village I passed on the concrete road. U Khin Aung from the KBZ Group of Companies said Bawsai until recently did not have even the most rudimentary infrastructure.
“This region had legged behind in development, but it has started to enjoy the fruits of development with the very recent completion of the 19-mile-long Bawsai-Heho Road and the establishment of high schools, hospitals, markets, and fire departments.
As recently as a few years ago, Bawsai experienced extreme scarcity of water.
“You had to spend half a day travelling long distances to collect water. Efforts to dig wells were futile and geologists even concluded the region had no water sources,” said U Khin Aung.
In 1999, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project to establish irrigation canals and dykes was attempted but with no success, forcing local residents to be thrifty in using the unsafe water from the lake for drinking and other uses.
A drought in 2011 was another blow for Bawsai, causing the lakes to dry up. Locals had to pay Ks3,000 for a 52-gallon tank of water, and even that was limited. Donors from Aungpan and Heho donated water, and then Brighter Future Myanmar stepped in.
“The chairman of KBZ heard of this and organised water tankers to carry water from the Pindaya-Zawgyi stream to local residents about nine times a day. Lakes were maintained in order to store much more water than before.
It was in 2014 when the Brighter Future Myanmar Foundation drilled tubewells in Bawsai with the use of machinery.
“Every drill struck water,” U Khin Aung said, calling the achievement “a miracle”.
“Today, Bawsai owns 20 tubewells and a water supply facility. Water, water everywhere in Bawsai”.
Bao Sai Road was smooth and even, dotted with pilgrimage vehicles to Pindaya and ox carts from far villages coming to collect water. I observed houses with full water tanks and the people happily taking showers. Some cattle were drinking water from a lake with a reddish hue. A signpost nearby read: “Do not wash tractors, cars and ox carts here. Sd by Monk and Chairman”.
Soon we arrived at Bawsai hospital. It was quite spacious for a 16-bed hospital, and the lodgings for medical staff and wards were fully furnished and connected with TV and Skynet. The opening ceremony for the hospital was conducted on 7 April, World Health Day.
Some of the ethnic people wanted to see the hospital so badly that they left their villages in groups at night to gaze in awe at the hospital.
I observed the many smiles of the local residents. It was certain they were jubilant over the opening of the hospital, market and fire departments.
“I am elated to have been able to collaborate with the people and the government in constructing the Bao Sai hospital and market, just like how the State Counsellor has said ‘together with the people’ in national development and contributing to the health sector”, said Daw Nang Lang Kham.
The Brighter Future Myanmar Foundation was established in 2007 and has made numerous donations to the social, religious, health and education sectors, and play a major role in preventing natural disasters. To date, the foundation has donated over Ks115.8 billion and has received numerous humanitarian awards from home and abroad. Of these numerous donations that include the new hospital and market, the Danu people of Bawsai now have a reason to be joyful.
Min Ye Kyaw Kaung
(From 11-4-2017 Issue of Myanma Alin)