Govt to sur­vey dams na­tion­wide

The Myanmar Times - - News - HTOO THANT thanhtoo@mm­times.com

THE gov­ern­ment is planning on re­view­ing the sta­tus of dams through­out the coun­try to see if they are worth keep­ing. U Htun Win, deputy min­is­ter for agri­cul­ture, live­stock and ir­ri­ga­tion, told par­lia­ment on Au­gust 2 that the re­view would take into ac­count the ef­fi­ciency, cost-ef­fec­tive­ness and longterm ben­e­fit of the dams.

A shift in pol­icy, away from build­ing dams and to­ward run­ning ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nels to farm­land, has al­ready led to a 50 per­cent cut in the re­quest for ir­ri­ga­tion fund­ing next year. The min­istry’s as­sis­tant sec­re­tary, U Myo Tint Tun, told The Myan­mar Times on July 18 that ex­pen­di­ture in 201718 would be less than half of this year’s level, fall­ing from K253 bil­lion (US$216 mil­lion) to K120 bil­lion. The funds would be used pri­mar­ily to pro­vide ir­ri­ga­tion drainage to ex­ist­ing dams that lacked it.

U Htun Win was re­spond­ing to a ques­tion in Pyithu Hlut­taw from U Lin Lin Kyaw (NLD; Myit­thar) re­gard­ing the profitability or other­wise of dam projects. He said there were par­tic­u­lar ques­tions about the ef­fec­tive­ness of Kin Tar di­ver­sion dam in Meik­tila, Man­dalay Re­gion, which ac­cu­mu­lates wa­ter by pump ac­tion in­stead of re­ly­ing on nat­u­ral grav­ity.

The deputy min­is­ter said, “A team is be­ing set up to con­sider this ques­tion and make recommendations on a course of ac­tion if it is found that the dams are not prof­itable, ben­e­fi­cial or cost-ef­fec­tive.” The team would also con­sider dams cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion.

Ear­lier ad­min­is­tra­tions, in­clud­ing the mil­i­tary regime, had built dams with­out considering ei­ther the en­vi­ron­men­tal or the so­cial im­pact, the deputy min­is­ter said. “We have found that many dams have had se­ri­ous im­pacts on sur­round­ing forests and moun­tains, leav­ing many with a very bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence. We have to con­sider what ben­e­fit these dams have.”

Al­though there are more than 500 dams for projects like the Meik­tila Land Green­ing, many lacked the drainage net­works nec­es­sary to ir­ri­gate sur­round­ing fields.

“There are many cases of dams with­out drains, and worse,” he said. Some dams built to pro­vide the dry zone in cen­tral Myan­mar with drinking wa­ter had turned out to more ex­pen­sive than other com­mer­cial so­lu­tions. The team’s find­ings would guide the gov­ern­ment on what ac­tion should be taken over the dams’ fu­ture.

The deputy min­is­ter also said that a huge pro­gram de­vel­oped un­der the for­mer mil­i­tary regime to pump river wa­ter into ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nels to in­crease paddy yield would be scrapped be­cause it did not work.

“Out of 300 river wa­ter projects, 170 have been stopped,” he said. – Trans­la­tion by Emoon and Khine Thazin Han

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