Thursday, February 28, 2013

Irrawaddy NGO proposes waterway commission

Ayeyarwady NGO proposes waterway commission
By Aye Sapay Phyu
25 February 2013

A recent proposal to form an Ayeyarwady River Commission was
supplemented by the idea of creating a water sustainability body
during the first consultative meeting of the Ayeyarwady Basin Research
Organisation in Yangon in mid-February.

U Cho Cho at the Ayeyarwady Basin Research Organisation's first public
meeting at the Royal Rose Restaurant in Bahan township February 9,
2013. (Boothee/The Myanmar Times)

The Ayeyarwady Basin Research Organisation is a non-government body
formed in May 2012 by experts in water, development and the environment.

The proposal to create an Ayeyarwady River Commission was submitted to
the Amyotha Hluttaw on February 5 by U Myo Myint, a representative of
Mandalay Region, and approved that day.

U Cho Cho, chairperson of Institute for Civil, Earth and Water
Engineering, a non-government organisation, said efforts must be made
to ensure the sustainability of the waterway.

"Myanmar and the Ayeyarwady can't be separated, and the country
developed based on the river," he said on February 9. "We need to care
for and love the Ayeyarwady because it is not an easy task to restore
it," he said.

U Cho Cho said development projects on or near the rivers should only
be implemented after the possible downstream impacts had been analysed.

Daw Davi Thant Cin, chief editor of Aung Pin Lae Environmental
Magazine, said systematic management of water resources will become
more important as the impact of climate change worsens. She added that
the river's tributaries must also be protected to ensure the whole
basin remains healthy.

Daw Khon Ja, a member of the Kachin Peace Network, said environmental
degradation in the Ayeyarwady's tributaries and in its watershed must
be monitored and prevented.

"We can't really say anything about the Ayeyarwady without including
the Maykha and Malikha rivers," she said. "There are gold mining
projects within 3 furlongs (about 600 metres) of the Maykha's banks.

"This affects the Ayeyarwady River and the evidence can be seen where
the muddy water replaces the clear water at the Myitsone confluence.
This creates sandbanks in the river and slows transportation. But the
problems there will be passed on to the whole country downstream," she

Hydropower projects with a total installed capacity of about 20,000
megawatts (MW) were agreed by the Ministry of Electric Power 1 and
China Power Investment Corporation in 2006, including seven dams in
the upstream areas of the Ayeyarwady River.

The biggest of these, the 6000MW Myitsone dam, was suspended by
President U Thein Sein in September 2011 following popular opposition.
However, work on the other six dams has been halted since fighting
broke out between the Kachin Independent Army and the Tatmadaw.

Daw Khon Ja added that the Ayeyarwady is also an important trade route
between southwestern China and Myanmar.

U Win Myo Thu, the managing director of Ecodev, an NGO that focuses on
environmental issues, said ecological engineering should be applied to
the management of rivers.

"We still have huge gaps in our knowledge concerned with the
hydrological dynamic of rivers," he said. "The problems will be
magnified if we try to construct dams and water gates without paying
attention to this issue. The best approach is to allow the water to
flow naturally," he said.

Dr Khin Ni Ni Thein, the founder and patron of the Ayeyarwady Basin
Research Organisation, said one of the suggestions of the meeting is
to request the President's Office to form a Myanmar Water Resources
Commission charged with maintaining the sustainability of the
country's water resources.

She added that the Chindwin, Sittoung and Thanlwin river systems were
also important for the nation and must be properly managed.

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