El Niño Drought Tipped, Charities Mobilize Water Works

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 28 March 2016

RANGOON — As the arid region of Central Burma is already feeling the effects of an El Niño year that may not see the climate cycle reach full strength for another two months, local charities are gearing up to distribute water in regions that receive little rain even under normal circumstances.

Meteorologist Tun Lwin says upcountry regions, including Sagaing, Mandalay and Magwe divisions, will suffer most from the weather phenomenon, especially in April and May.

“These areas will experience water scarcity three times harder than last year,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Local charities like the Brighter Future Myanmar Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Kanbawza (KBZ) Group conglomerate, has been digging wells in Shan State and Upper Burma, and says it has spent 1.4 billion kyats (US$1.15 million) to import 32 water bowsers for distributing drinking water in drought-hit areas of Upper Burma.

“The bowsers are aimed at distributing water in Upper Burma with the collaboration of local charities there. Our foundation contributed 12 while other well-wishers donated 20,” Nang Lang Kham, the chairwoman of the foundation, told The Irrawaddy.

“We hope to start our water distribution in early April, as soon as the bowsers arrive,” she added.

Kyaw Thu, founder of Rangoon’s Free Funeral Service Society, said his Kyaw Thu Humanitarian Network had also ordered three bowsers from China to deliver drinking water not only in upcountry areas but also to Lower Burma. The network is now primarily working on potable water projects such as the digging of wells, in affiliation with the Brighter Future Myanmar Foundation.

“We could start this week for Pakkoku, Kyauk Padaung in Upper Burma, Irrawaddy Division as well as near Rangoon in the lower part of the country,” he said.

Beginning earlier this year, villages especially in Upper Burma have been grappling with water scarcities, prompting the government’s Village Administration Department to ask for donations across the country for drought-hit areas.