Casting a Line in Mandalay

Fishermen at Taungthaman Lake in Mandalay Division cast their fishing lines. (Photo: Teza Hlaing / The Irrawaddy)

With scenic surroundings and a century-old wooden bridge arched over a vast expanse of water, Mandalay’s Taungthaman Lake is a hot spot among local and international tourists.

Decades ago, the lake’s water subsided during the winter and summer, turning land at its shores into green vegetation so local peasants could grow beans and pulses. But in the 1990s the Mandalay municipality built dykes to regulate water levels and auctioned off the lake for a fishery lease, so these days, one-time peasants make a living as small-scale fishermen.

“We fish just for fun, but there are some people here who make a living this way,” one fisherman told The Irrawaddy, adding that local do not have free access to the lake, which is in Amarapura Township.

“They have to bribe the fishery lessee’s henchmen,” he said. “If you want to fish for a whole day, you have to pay 1,000 kyats [US $1.20], and for half a day it’s 500 kyats. If you’re using a fishing net, it will cost you 10,000 kyats.

“There are some people who avoid paying the bribe. But if they’re caught fishing, they’re punished by those henchmen.”

He said fishermen sell their daily catch, which may include “butter fish” on good days, to food stalls at the bridge for about 3,000 to 4,000 kyats.

One Response to Casting a Line in Mandalay

  1. Greed turned a seasonal lake into an all season one that put paid to the diverse ecosystem of the old days. Farmers used to grow crops on the dry bed of the Lake in the summer and winter time when a small stream could be seen running across under U Bein’s Bridge. Now with the water all the year round the pillars are going to suffer damage, and the century old Mezali trees are gone.

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