Ir­rawaddy River and River Com­pre­hen­sive Man­age­ment

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Tha­iaung

1.Over­all Eval­u­a­tion of Health Con­di­tion of Mother River

Ac­cord­ing to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion by en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­perts, cur­rently the eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment of the Ayeyawady River Basin is fac­ing the fol­low­ing ma­jor threats:

Rag­ing flood:There are no stor­age reg­u­la­tion and flood con­trol mea­sures for the River Basin at present ex­cept pas­sive de­fense in case of flood. The reach up­stream My­itky­ina is char­ac­ter­ized by flood of a large vol­ume and a high wa­ter head in rainy sea­sons. The flood often oc­curs in this sea­son and surges down­stream with rub­bles and sed­i­ments, threat­en­ing the safety of peo­ple’s lives and prop­er­ties and caus­ing rel­a­tively large im­pact on veg­e­ta­tion, an­i­mal habi­tats, fish liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment, agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion and so on along the banks of Ayeyawady River.

Ge­o­log­i­cal dis­as­ter: There are no mea­sures against ge­o­log­i­cal dis­as­ters in the Basin at present. Col­lapse of banks caused by ir­reg­u­lar wa­ter flow, de­bris flow dis­as­ters caused by sud­den rain­storms and so on hap­pen from time to time, re­sult­ing in se­ri­ous wa­ter loss and soil ero­sion day by day. After oc­cur­rence of eco­log­i­cal dis­as­ters, cat­a­strophic dam­age is caused to veg­e­ta­tion and an­i­mal habi­tats and the con­tent of sed­i­ment in down­stream river chan­nel rises ac­cord­ingly. As a con­se­quence, wa­ter qual­ity has de­graded.

Grass burn­ing for crop ro­ta­tion: Most of the Basin up­stream of My­it­sone is high moun­tains and val­leys with few flat lands, so lo­cal res­i­dents have to burn grasses to get arable land on the slopes.The grass burn­ing for crop ro­ta­tion di­rectly leads to the de­struc­tion of veg­e­ta­tion in large area and even the for­est fire.

Ex­ces­sive de­for­esta­tion: Since there is no sta­ble power sup­ply in the lo­cal area, res­i­dents have to de­pend on the for­est for fuel wood and house con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als in or­der to make a liv­ing. Ad­di­tion­ally, to gain fam­ily in­come, some res­i­dents have to be en­gaged in tim­ber log­ging and trade, lead­ing to de­struc­tion of the for­est re­sources.

Gold min­ing: Gold min­ing is very com­mon along the river banks, but there are no prac­ti­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion mea­sures. As a re­sult, re­mark­able in­flu­ence is ex­erted on the wa­ter qual­ity of the river chan­nel and the veg­e­ta­tion in the min­ing area.

Wildlife trade: With­out proper means of sub­sis­tence such as a cer­tain scale of in­dus­trial en­ter­prises, mod­ern agri­cul­ture, ma­ture ser­vice in­dus­try and other trades, some peo­ple have to be en­gaged in killing wildlife and make a liv­ing by the trade of fur, bones, meat and so on of the wildlife, which has im­posed a huge threat on the wildlife in the Basin.

The va­ri­ety of en­vi­ron­men­tal threats men­tioned above di­rectly lead to the fol­low­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems:

The lack of mea­sures for preven­tion and con­trol of flood and eco­log­i­cal dis­as­ters and for mak­ing the best use of the cir­cum­stances, pro­mot­ing ad­van­tages and elim­i­nat­ing dis­ad­van­tages poses a threat on the safety of peo­ple’s lives and prop­er­ties, agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion, veg­e­ta­tion, an­i­mal habi­tats and fish liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment along the banks of down­stream Ayeyawady River.

The grass burn­ing for crop ro­ta­tion and the de­for­esta­tion have led to veg­e­ta­tion de­te­ri­o­ra­tion and dis­ap­pear­ance of many an­i­mal habi­tats, wors­ened the wa­ter loss and soil ero­sion and even caused de­bris flow, which in turn has in­creased the sed­i­ment in the river chan­nel and de­graded the wa­ter qual­ity.

The wildlife trade has led to the reduction of species and pop­u­la­tion of the rare and en­dan­gered an­i­mals in the Basin, which has im­posed di­rect threat on bio­di­ver­sity.

The waste wa­ter with a high con­tent of sed­i­ment, mer­cury, cyanide and oil gen­er­ated dur­ing gold min­ing has been con­stantly de­grad­ing the wa­ter qual­ity of the river chan­nel, which in turn has af­fected the down­stream in­dus­trial, agri­cul­tural, and liv­ing wa­ter and the liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment of fish.

Ac­cord­ing to com­par­i­son of the his­tor­i­cal data by ex­perts, the prob­lems men­tioned above have ex­isted for a long time re­sult­ing in a trend of con­stant degra­da­tion of the eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment in the Basin.

2.Pro­tect the Mother River with Concrete Ac­tions

At present, the eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment of the Ayeyawady River Basin is be­ing threat­ened by rag­ing floods, ge­o­log­i­cal dis­as­ters, gold min­ing, grass burn­ing for crop ro­ta­tion, ex­ces­sive de­for­esta­tion, wild an­i­mal and wild plant trades, etc. To stop con­tin­u­ous de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment in the Basin, the fol­low­ing ac­tions shall be taken:

Strengthen en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment. To stop the ac­tiv­i­ties dam­ag­ing eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment, the le­gal sys­tem on en­vi­ron­ment pro­tec­tion shall be im­proved and the work team of en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment shall be es­tab­lished with­out de­lay. The mea­sures to be taken shall in­clud­ing pro­vid­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion man­age­ment per­son­nel, set­ting key pro­tec­tion re­gions, pro­vid­ing smooth and ef­fi­cient law en­force­ment meth­ods and es­tab­lish­ing mon­i­tor­ing and man­age­ment fa­cil­i­ties, as well as nec­es­sary equip­ment.

In­crease in­vest­ment in en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion. To turn around the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion ten­dency of the eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment in the Basin, it is nec­es­sary to take a se­ries of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion mea­sures, but what is more im­por­tant is to gain larger amount of sus­tain­able fi­nan­cial sup­port. This re­quires con­certed ef­forts of the govern­ment, en­ter­prises, NGOs and lo­cal res­i­dents.

Change the tra­di­tional liv­ing style. Tra­di­tional liv­ing style, such as mak­ing a liv­ing by felling, gold min­ing and wild an­i­mals and plants trades, as well as con­sum­ing fuel wood for liv­ing are di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion. There­fore, the tra­di­tional liv­ing style shall be changed as soon as pos­si­ble. To change the tra­di­tional liv­ing style, the sup­port of sta­ble and cheap en­ergy sup­ply, as well as reli­able and sus­tain­able eco­nomic source are re­quired.

Change the way of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. The fun­da­men­tal way to gain sta­ble and cheap en­ergy sup­ply, as well as reli­able and sus­tain­able eco­nomic source is to change the cur­rent eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment mode. It re­quires trans­form­ing the resource ad­van­tages of north Myan­mar into eco­nomic ad­van­tages, as well as sound in­fra­struc­ture in­clud­ing high­way, electric power, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, hy­drol­ogy and safety fore­cast to fa­cil­i­tate the com­pre­hen­sive de­vel­op­ment of mod­ern agri­cul­ture, tourism and ser­vice in­dus­try. Sta­ble en­ergy could fa­cil­i­tate the de­vel­op­ment of non-pol­lut­ing in­dus­trial projects and trans­form­ing of resource ad­van­tages could pro­vide fi­nan­cial re­sources to the govern­ment for eco­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion.

There­fore, the in­evitable choice for the eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment pro­tec­tion of the Basin is to give full play of resource ad­van­tages, to de­velop non-pol­lut­ing in­dus­trial projects and to pro­mote sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of re­gional ecol­ogy and econ­omy.

Strengthen river course man­age­ment. To com­pletely change the in­flu­ence of floods to the so­cial econ­omy and eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment, river course man­age­ment shall be strength­ened. Ef­fec­tive flood con­trol shall be re­al­ized, dur­ing which pas­sive flood fight­ing shall be changed into ac­tive river train­ing. By mak­ing the best use of the cir­cum­stances, pro­mot­ing ad­van­tages and elim­i­nat­ing dis­ad­van­tages, the fre­quent flood dis­as­ters can be turned into su­pe­rior re­sources through re­gional eco­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion, soil and wa­ter con­ser­va­tion, flood reg­u­la­tion and stor­age, as well as flood fore­cast­ing and warn­ing.

To con­trol the adverse in­flu­ence of ge­o­log­i­cal dis­as­ters, tech­ni­cal re­search and pre­dic­tion abil­i­ties of re­gional ge­o­log­i­cal con­di­tions shall be im­proved as soon as pos­si­ble. Spe­cific dis­as­ter al­le­vi­a­tion mea­sures shall be pro­posed ac­cord­ing to weather fore­cast, flood mon­i­tor­ing and ge­o­log­i­cal con­di­tion mon­i­tor­ing, so as to con­trol the adverse in­flu­ence caused by ge­o­log­i­cal dis­as­ters.

Speed­ing up the de­vel­op­ment of large hy­dropower projects in the Basin con­trib­utes to ex­pand­ing the in­vest­ment chan­nel of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, chang­ing the tra­di­tional liv­ing style of lo­cal res­i­dents and chang­ing cur­rent lo­cal eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment mode. It trans­forms the rich hy­dropower resource ad­van­tages into eco­nomic ad­van­tages and the ben­e­fit of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment is used to sup­port eco­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion. To com­pletely change the in­flu­ence of floods to the so­cial econ­omy and eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment, mea­sures shall be taken to make the best use of the cir­cum­stances, pro­mot­ing ad­van­tages and elim­i­nat­ing dis­ad­van­tages. And the fre­quent flood dis­as­ters can be turned into su­pe­rior re­sources, thus the over­all de­vel­op­ment of the mother river is re­al­ized in this way.

Graphic of the planned My­it­sone dam. Photo: SPIC

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