Govt: Cause of Polluted Water in Myanmar’s Karen State Still Unclear

By Thazin Hlaing 29 October 2019

YANGON—The Karen State government is still investigating why contaminated water is flowing into lakes that provide drinking water for villages near the state capital of Hpa-an, according to state Minister of Social Affairs U Saw Bo Bo.

The state government has collected water samples from over 20 places in three villages and sent them to a lab, according to the minister.

Reports circulated on social media in the second week of October that murky water was flowing into lakes in Nat Gon, Ye Dwin Gon and Nga Pyaw Taw villages near Hpa-an. Rumors spread that the contaminated water came from a nearby coal-powered cement plant.

Lab technicians test water samples from Karen State. / ALARM Myanmar

“We have checked the lakes in those three villages and the drainage system at the cement plant, as well as two lakes that filter wastewater and the water flowing from those lakes into natural lakes,” said U Saw Bo Bo.

“We went to the villages and found the water is murky. We haven’t received the lab test results,” Lower House lawmaker Daw Nan Than Than Lwin of Hpa-an Township told The Irrawaddy.

Local farmers have found it difficult to sell their produce following the reports of contaminated water on social media, said Saw Tha Boe, supervisor at the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability.

“Another challenge facing them, besides health concerns, is their livelihoods. Nobody is buying the agricultural products they have grown. They also have problems with drinking water,” he said.

Water in creeks near Hpa-an has turned murky. / ALARM Myanmar

The Karen State government has been providing drinking water for local residents in the three villages, according to U Saw Bo Bo, and a water purifier that can produce 3,000 liters of water per hour has been installed at Nga Pyaw Taw village.

“We are still examining if the contamination is caused by chemical effects from coal,” said U Saw Bo Bo.

Some local residents in the three villages have complained about skin problems but the township Health Department said they were caused by other factors and not by the water.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko