The bride of Myan­mar his­tory

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - News -

A FEW days ago, there was the fi­nale of a song con­test on one of the chan­nels of Myan­mar Tele­vi­sion. The ti­tle of the song the win­ner chose to sing at the event was “The Bride of His­tory,” a very pop­u­lar song com­posed and vo­calised a cou­ple of decades ago by a lo­cal leg­endary fig­ure in Myan­mar mu­sic. The names of the win­ner of the tele­vised song con­test and the com­poser, who has al­ready passed away, are well-known to the public in this coun­try, and they do mat­ter, but what mat­ters most is the name “the bride,” which refers to the river Aye­yarwady.

It is un­de­ni­able that the Aye­yarwady is the longest and most fa­mous river in Myan­mar and has wit­nessed all kinds of ups and downs – the great­ness of pow­er­ful em­pires and the down­falls of hun­dreds of kings and queens – in the coun­try. Still, it is the soul and lifeblood of Myan­mar. That is what the song is about. It has some sort of po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions and is well-ac­cepted by au­di­ences.

What should be stressed here would be the river’s social and eco­nomic value and its en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity. In a re­cent re­port by the World Wildlife Fund, the Aye­yarwady’s ser­vice to the coun­try was val­ued at some­where be­tween US$2 bil­lion and $7 bil­lion. That is equal to be­tween 12 per­cent and over 50pc of to­tal ex­ports of goods and ser­vices and nearly 10pc of the na­tion’s GDP (nom­i­nal gross do­mes­tic prod­uct).

Apart from those mind-bog­gling fig­ures, the num­ber of peo­ple whose liveli­hoods de­pend solely or al­most en­tirely on the ex­is­tence of the river is huge and more in­ter­est­ing. Thirty four mil­lion peo­ple (or 66 per­cent of Myan­mar’s pop­u­la­tion) live and make a liv­ing in the basin of the Aye­yarwady.

There­fore, the health of the 2170-kilome­tre river af­fects the health of Myan­mar. It’s as sim­ple as that. The Aye­yarwady runs from the north of the coun­try and flows into the sea through the south­ern delta. Along its way are found the world’s rarest species of whale and other marine life. The man­groves in the delta keep on pro­tect­ing Myan­mar peo­ple from all sorts of storms and cy­clones. Dozens of hy­dro­elec­tric dams on it or its arms, the trib­u­taries, are still run­ning and pro­duc­ing much-needed elec­tric­ity. Hun­dreds of mines in its basin go on pol­lut­ing its water.

We know the Aye­yarwady is price­less, but do we ac­tu­ally try to pro­tect it and value it as the bride of the his­tory?

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