Flood-Hit Delta Residents Wary of Rising Waters

By Yen Saning 7 August 2015

HINTHADA TOWNSHIP, Irrawaddy Division — While local donors have managed to reach the flood-hit village of Kyauk Ye beside the Irrawaddy River, around 300 displaced people sheltering in a local monastery remain wary of rising flood waters and in need of crucial funds.

Kyauk Ye has around 550 homes and is located around five miles by river from the town of Hinthada in Irrawaddy Division. The trip—now impossible by land—from Hinthada to the village by boat is around 45 minutes.

While current flood levels in Kyauk Ye, the largest village in Sin Boe village tract, are the highest in recent memory, locals have grown warily accustomed to the annual sight of rising waters in the monsoon season.

They are generally practiced at keeping dry and riding out the monsoonal period until the waters recede. But this year is different.

Water levels have only left the nipa palm leaf roofs of houses visible, making it impossible for villagers to remain in their homes.

“Water levels always rise here, but [this year] we were in trouble and had to take refuge at the monastery,” said 58-year-old Daw Htay, adding that she had never seen flooding on such a scale.

Water levels are currently 7 feet higher than average monsoonal levels.

About 300 locals are sheltering in a monastery, one of the tallest buildings in the village. The local middle-school remains closed to its hundreds of students.

“It has been eight days since our school closed,” an eighth-grade pupil, still wearing his green and white school uniform, told The Irrawaddy.

Most displaced persons at the monastery are women and children, with their husbands and fathers desperately trying to salvage or protect property and livestock around their flooded homes.

Most locals depend for their livelihood on cultivating the land, including growing chilies and peanuts. But their work usually ceases in the rainy season when flooding occurs, often causing erosion or more significant landslides.

Now villagers have formed groups to take turns managing daily meals, according to 47-year-old local resident Ye Soe.

No official aid has yet reached Kyauk Ye, but authorities’ have visited to take stock of the situation, according to local, Daw Than Than Shin.

The 88 Generation Peace and Open Society sent members to the area on Wednesday and local aid groups have attempted almost daily runs of supplies.

While the village has been inundated for the past 15 days, no waterborne diseases or other illnesses have been reported. But two nurses remain in the village on stand-by.

“We haven’t seen any diseases here yet. Just normal coughs and colds or dizziness. No cases of diarrhea have broken out here,” said Daw Cho Thae, a senior nurse stationed in the area.

Personal hygiene may be a problem, she said, as people bathe in the dirty river water.

“We also have to be careful when the water goes down,” she said, alluding to the potential danger posed by snakes.

For the first few days, there was no toilet at the monastery, said 35-year-old Kyu Kyu Thin, but a makeshift one has now been built.

A key concern for displaced residents is finding the money to pay for food and supplies.

“We have enough rice now. But our difficulty is money,” said Ye Soe.

“It costs us about 180,000 kyat daily [for meals, fuel and supplies]. We need to buy petrol for boats, and diesel to pump water from [artesian wells]. We need to run generators for electricity the whole night. We need money.”

Rice is not a primary concern, Ye Soe said, as it is provided by aid donors. But he was less certain about the ongoing toll on villagers if flood waters continued to rise.

“We don’t know when the water will go down. It’s now over 15 days,” he said. “Not only is it not going down, it’s coming up. We don’t know what kind of difficulties we will face if the water keeps rising.”