The Irrawaddy

Experts to Research Mt. Popa Landslides Over Safety Concerns

MANDALAY — Research to investigate, prevent and secure a reactivated landslide in the Mt. Popa area is set to begin at the end of this month, according to experts.

The research plan, organized by the Mandalay regional government, follows significant landslides that occurred in October 2017 in the region.

“We are going to dig holes to investigate the soil and water drainage situation. Afterwards, we will survey land movement rates,” said Dr. Soe Moe Kyaw Win, an engineering geologist and member of the research team.

According to experts, the landslides began some 20 years ago, however, they have become more sizeable in recent years.

In October 2017, the road at the foot of the Mt. Popa volcanic plug sunk about three feet, and the area faced landslides that damaged or destroyed nearby buildings.

Mount Popa is an extinct volcano that rises 1518 meters above sea level. Locals regard it as a religious center and the site of the 37 Great Nats—ancient animist spirits.

According to experts, the landslides are due to natural causes, but human elements are worsening the situation.

“Construction sometimes blocks underground waterways, which can worsen landslides if neglected,” said Dr. Soe Moe Kyaw Win.

“However, we are not saying buildings need to be moved. After researching the situation, we hope to provide a solution that will safeguard locals and prevent disaster,” he added.

The experts said the team would collaborate with regional government officials to educate locals following their research.

According to the local authorities, no actions have yet been taken to move any local buildings.

“We have carried out preliminary awareness campaigns for locals. We are waiting for the research before issuing further safety considerations,” said U Aye Khine, a local lawmaker and the President of the Popa Lovers Association.