Fishing Curbs Pledged for Mandalay Lake

By Myat Pyae Phyo 24 August 2015

RANGOON — The Mandalay regional government will cease issuances of new commercial fishing licenses for Taungthaman Lake in a bid to conservethe body of water, which hosts Burma’s iconic U Bein Bridge.

Aung Maung, development affairs minister for Mandalay Division, announced the plan during the 13th regular session of the Mandalay divisionalparliament on Friday.

“According to experts, Taungthaman Lake should be conserved as a freshwater lake for its beauty. So, we won’t auction licenses to fish in the lake as of the coming fiscal year. We have also taken measures to prevent wastewater from flowing into the lake,” said the minister.

Amarapura Township’sTaungthaman Lake, which is spanned by the famed1,200-meter U Bein Bridge, has been used for commercial fishing since 1989.The Mandalay Division Fisheries Department and Mandalay City Development Committee are responsible for the auctioningof fishing licenses.

Annually, an average of about 130,000 kilograms of fish is caught from Taungthaman Lake. Currently, tycoon Chit Khaing holds the sole commercial fishing license,a three-yearconcession that he secured with a bid of 500 million kyats (US$390,000) per year. The company hasset up fish breeding farmson the lake.

“I am not complaining about it,” Chit Khaing said. “Our fishing license has one year left. As fish are being bred in the lake, the ending of the auction will affect the market. I think they [the government]are trying to find a short-term solution for the problems of Taungthaman Lake.”

The decision comesless than four months after the Mandalay City Development Committee cracked down on factories in Mandalay’s industrial zones that were dumping untreated wastewater into the lake.

Meanwhile, plans to restore the aging U Bein Bridge were slated for this month, but high water levels on Taungthaman Lake have delayed the project, said Myint Kyu, the Mandalay Division finance minister, who is also responsible for heritage conservation in the region.

At more than 150 years old, the teak bridge is a major tourist draw and is also heavily trafficked by locals.