17 Factories Suspended After Polluting Lake in Central Burma

By Zarni Mann 5 May 2015

MANDALAY — The Mandalay municipal government has suspended operations of 17 factories in one of the city’s largest industrial zones, citing diminished fish populations caused by water pollution in Taungthaman Lake.

A Water and Sanitation Department official told The Irrawaddy that the factories, which include sugar refinery, canning, liquor brewing and leather curing facilities in Mandalay Industrial Zone 2, violated wastewater management rules.

“We have ordered those factories to shut down because we found that they did not treat their wastewater before dumping it into the lake,” said a high-ranking official from the department, which operates under the Mandalay City Development Committee (MCDC), requesting anonymity.

“Instructions for waste water management were already given. If they can implement the department’s instructions, and if we are satisfied the results after inspection, they can resume operations,” the official said.

He said the department plans to construct a wastewater pipeline that would empty into the Myitnge River, which converges with the Irrawaddy River near Inwa, in efforts to prevent excessive waste in Taungthaman Lake.

The department plans to treat the water at a yet-to-be-built facility before sending it through the 12,000 ft pipeline, he added.

Taungthaman Lake is located just outside Mandalay in Amarapura, and is the site of the famed U Pein bridge, a 1.2-kilometer (0.75-mile) teak structure that draws in crowds of foreign and domestic tourists throughout the year. It is also the site of a proposed 16-hectare (40-acre) resort slated for completion in 2018 at a projected cost of US$27 million.

Fishery owner Chit Khine, who operates a number of breeding farms, said populations have significantly dwindled over the last month, and he plans to sue at least 14 companies for his losses.

“I’ve lost about 60 million kyats [UD$60,000], so I’m planning to sue them,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Rumors began to circulate late last month that the dead fish were being sold to local markets at a reduced price, but local breeders and officials denied the claim, maintaining that the contaminated products had been “buried immediately” and that the sale of such items is “strictly prohibited.”

Maung Mung Oo, director of local environmentalist group Green Activities, said pollution has increased dramatically in recent years as more investors set up shop in the industrial zone and local entrepreneurs began opening restaurants and other businesses catering to businessmen and tourists.

“The water is dirtier than it was five years ago,” Maung Maung Oo said. “There will be an increase in the number of visitors, especially when the Taungthaman resort project is built. If there’s no proper waste control, the pollution and its effects on people will only get worse.”