Casting a Line in Mandalay

By The Irrawaddy 9 January 2013

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.