WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
Just a few weeks ago, you would be forgiven for thinking Myanmar couldn’t possibly have a problem of water shortage. Large areas of the country were inundated due to annual monsoon flooding. The reality is a little more complicated. Every year the country faces problems of flooding. Yet there are large areas – so-called Dry Zone areas – where the underlying problem is water scarcity and the resulting challenges for farmers seeking to grow crops. For farmers working growing crops in the Dry Zones access to water, preservation and use matter and certain efforts are made annually to preserve and effectively use this crucial resource.
As we have reported before, one country is the world’s prime expert on effectively utilizing and preserving water – Israel. And so Myanmar has welcomed the Israeli government’s help with technology and practice transfer. As we cover in this issue, in our section on Development, two Israeli experts from MASHAV – Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, conducted a course and workshop on “Improving Irrigation Efficiency” with the aim to share Israel’s knowledge and experience in this field with Myanmar. The programme was a collaboration over several days between MASHAV, the Israeli Embassy, and the Water Utilization Department, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation at the beginning of this month at the office of the Water Utilization Department, Nay Pyi Taw.
About 40 participants from Dry Zone areas and officials from the Agriculture Ministry attended the course and workshop that looked into the practicalities of carefully using water for agriculture, minimizing wastage, and recycling.
Such efforts are needed. A glance next door at neighbouring India, particularly in the drier areas of Punjab, shows how poor water management is leading many farmers into dire straits. Overuse of limited water resources has led to shortages of water for use on the land. In particular, underground water sources are being used to such as extent that water levels in wells and accessed by pumps drops year by year, with the added danger that water laden with arsenic is the only muddy resource that can be pumped out of the ground in some areas. Water tanker trucks provide a relief – but at a price. The experiences of poor water-strapped farmers in India provides a useful reminder of how poor water management can lead to disaster.
It therefore is a welcome development to see how Myanmar’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation and related experts are looking to Israeli expert guidance on how best to manage limited water resources. This help is needed now and will prove valuable down the road when the stresses of water supply will become more acute in Myanmar’s Dry Zones.