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Myanmar prepares for water shortage

Last year's El Nino exacerbated the dry season but this time the government and NGOs are prepared  

Myanmar prepares for water shortage

Two men walk across a dried-up lake on the outskirts of Yangon in this file photo. This dry season as the temperature is likely to increase to over 40 degrees Celsius. (Photo by Stephen Shaver/AFP)

John Zaw, Mandalay
Myanmar

March 16, 2017

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Myanmar is preparing for water scarcity in at least 500 villages this dry season and plans to distribute 14 million gallons of water to affected areas.

The Department of Rural Development under the Ministry of Agriculture also plans to dig artisan wells and repair over 1,000 existing wells in collaboration with non-governmental organizations.          

"We have already coordinated with local authorities and NGOs through information sharing about how to respond to water shortages," Khant Zaw, director general of the department, told ucanews.com on March 15.

"We have drawn our preparations by taking lessons from the 2016 experience and we have enough money from the budget to respond to it," said Khant Zaw.

More than 2,000 villages faced water shortages across the country in 2016 as El Nino hit Myanmar starting from late 2015 until June 2016. 

The El Nino phenomenon plays havoc with weather patterns and brings on extreme conditions such as flooding or droughts. These in turn can lead to other problems such as crop failure, wildfires, disease, as well as food and water shortages.

In April 2016, temperatures in Magwe Region reached 46 degrees Celsius, the highest in two decades. 

 

Young villagers from a village in Taungtha township, Mandalay Division go to collect water, Feb. 27 (ucanews.com photo)

 

Khin Moe War, a member of parliament from Tharbaung township, said some villages in the Irrawaddy Delta have faced drinking water shortages since February.

She said that local authorities have dug artisan wells and prepared to distribute water via water-tankers to affected villages as a short-term plan.

But several villages cannot find underground water sources for wells "so we need to consider a longer-term plan," Khin Moe War told ucanews.com. 

Villagers in the Irrawaddy Delta traditionally source drinking water from rainwater harvesting, communal water ponds and wells as most villages have no access to piped water.

Father Henry Eikhlein, director of Karuna (Caritas) Myanmar, said they are closely monitoring the situation. The church-run project helped dig 30 artisan wells and provided a water purification system in Tharbaung township in the Irrawaddy Delta recently.

"Our main purpose is to get drinking water and dig wells to be used in both dry and rainy seasons," Father Eikhlein told ucanews.com.

Myanmar's prominent Meteorologist Tun Lwin has warned that the country needs to prepare for water shortages and drought this dry season as the temperature is likely to increase to over 40 degrees Celsius in Magwe, Mandalay, Rakhine, Irrawaddy Delta, Bago and Yangon regions.

Myanmar is no stranger to drought and year-round water shortages can occur in the Irrawaddy Delta, and in a dry zone area comprising 58 townships in Mandalay, Magwe and Sagaing during the March-May dry season.

Myanmar is the world's second most vulnerable country to climate change according to the Global Climate Risk Index.

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