Utilization of Water Resources in Myanmar

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This photo taken on May 5, 2016 shows people carrying buckets of water in Dala township on the outskirts of Yangon. The resource-rich country now has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and commercial hub Yangon has morphed from a crumbling relic to a rapidly transforming metropolis, with an ever-changing skyline. / AFP PHOTO / YE AUNG THU
  • By Min Khant Soe (Zayar Myay)
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Residents collect drinking water from a lake in Dala township located outside Yangon city. Photo: AFP

Myanmar is primarily an agricultural country and the economy of the nation is also mainly depends on the agricultural products. To increase the agricultural productions for the rising demand of a growing population, double crop cultivation of paddy rice and other crops has been introduced by implementing the large- scale irrigation systems. In the large irrigation system the proper water management system is essential to develop the effective use of water resources

Myanmar has a total area of 676 590 km2 and the country’s southern coastline lies on the Andaman Sea and to the southwest the Bay of Bengal, it is bordered by Bangladesh to the west, India to the northwest, China to the northeast and Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Thailand to the east.
Geographically, Myanmar can be divided into five regions which are the northern and western mountains, the eastern plateau (Shan plateau), the central basin and coastal strip. The country is mountainous, rising to more than 5 800 m above sea level in the far north, and reaching an elevation of well over 2 000 m over much of Shan state in the northeast, and in Rakhine and Chin states in the west.
In Myanmar the cultivated areas are concentrated in the Ayeyarwady river basin, while potential for further expansion lies mainly in Upper Myanmar, in the Chin, Kachin and Shan states.

Myanmar has a tropical monsoon climate and the rainfall is highly seasonal, and being concentrated in the hot humid months of the southwest monsoon. In contrast, the northwest monsoon is relatively cool and almost entirely dry. The mean annual rainfall is around 2 341 mm and 90 per cent of the discharge flows between May and October.

Water resources
Myanmar is endowed with abundant water resources. Therefore the north-south direction of Myanmar’s mountain ranges is reflected in the flow of its major rivers, of which two are international. There are many river basins: the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy)-Chindwin river basin, the Sittaung river basin, the Thanlwin river basin, Rakhine coastal basin and the Tanintharyi coastal basin respectively.
Two Major Natural Lakes
There are two major natural lakes which are the Inle Lake and the Indawgyi Lake. The largest is known as the Inlay Lake in Shan state and the Indawgyi Lake in Kachin state.The background history of the Irrigation and Water Utilization has improved in Myanmar.

Indawgyi Lake
Indawgyi Lake is one of the largest inland lakes in Southeast Asia. It is located in Mohnyin Township in the Kachin State of Myanmar. The lake measures 13 kilometers (8.1 mi) east to west, and 24 kilometers (15 mi) north to south. There are over 20 villages around the lake.
The Indawgyi Lake is a biosphere reserve which is a unique kind of protected area that differs from a national park, wilderness area, national forest, or wildlife refuge in having three very different, but equal, aims: conservation of genetic resources, species, and ecosystems; scientific research and monitoring; and promoting sustainable development in communities of the surrounding region. Both the Indawgyi Lake and the Inlay Lake are listed as biosphere reserves in Myanmar.
The lake is about 24 kilometers long and about 10 kilometers wide and it is surrounded by hills covered with forest. The biosphere reserve is an area of 133,715 hectares that includes the lake and the surrounding wetlands and forest to a distance of about 15 kilometers.

Inlay Lake
The Inlay Lake is a freshwater lake located in the Nyaungshwe Township of Shan State. It is the second largest lake in Myanmar with an estimated surface area of 44.9 square miles. The watershed area for the lake lies to a large extent to the north and west of the lake. The main business in this region is agriculture with the floating gardens. Due to its picturesque siting and diverse fauna, combined with the unique lifestyles and traditions of human inhabitants, the lake is considered as one of the primary tourist destinations in Myanmar. The Inle is not only designated as the 190th World’s Eco-region but also nominated as one of the fresh water biodiversity hotspots.

Water resource and utilization
Myanmar is rich in water resources and the catchment area of Myanmar’s rivers comprises about
737800 km². Potential water resources volume is about 1082 km³ for surface water and 495 cubic km for groundwater.as well constitute national water resources annually.
As an agro-base country of Myanmar, water utilization for agricultural sector stands for 90% while industry and domestic use is only about 10% of the total water use. The total utilization of the nation’s water resources is only about 5 percent of the potential. It is clear that the physical potential for further development of water resources in Myanmar is quite substantial.
However with the increase of population and enhanced need for water for economic activities, there is increasing pressure on use of surface water and extraction of groundwater. Control and management of surface water and groundwater is therefore important for sustainable development of the country in future.

Irrigation and water reservoirs
Most of the irrigation reservoirs were sited on the tributaries and streamlets of main water resources. Consequently while not impeding or hindering the flow of main water resources, the impact of the dams on environment have also been negligible. Similarly no major reservoirs that could impede flow have been constructed in the catchment of the Ayeyarwady River, which is Myanmar’s main water channel.
Consumption of storage water from reservoir is not only for the irrigation but also for drinking purpose. Analysis of water quality from most of reservoirs is carried out, and most of the results show water quality of storage reservoir is suitable for agriculture purpose.

Utilization of water resource management
It is needed for the authority concerned to raise awareness to the public through education and to convey the importance of water resources for the economic, social and all-round development of all the sectors.
Therefore concerted efforts should be made to get clean drinking water. We should be aware of the global water-shortage caused by ground water over-pumping and aquifer depletion. The adequate treatment of waste- water is required and it is a solution to this problem.
Whatever it is, it is better to make efforts for implementation of solving water issues such as acquisition of adequate water supply, valuation of water, protection from floods and storms, conservation of water resources with systematic management in the long run.


Translated by Win Ko Ko Aung

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