Govt Mobilizes to Address Water Shortages

By Htun Htun 4 March 2016

RANGOON — The Rural Development Department, under Burma’s Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development, is working to supply water to 49 villages in 23 townships facing severe shortages and in urgent need of drinking water.

Khant Zaw, director-general of the Rural Development Department, told The Irrawaddy: “At present, we only need to send water to 49 villages. We have dug wells in villages where possible. In some parts of Arakan State, we are pumping water into man-made lakes. Concerned departments and donors are working cooperatively to alleviate water shortages.”

The department has been sending water to villages in Sagaing, Mandalay and Magwe divisions, as well as Naypyidaw Union Territory and Karenni and Mon states, since the third week of February.

Burma’s Dry Zone, where most villages in need are located, covers more than 54,000 square kilometers encompassing 58 townships that span from lower Sagaing Division, to the western and central parts of Mandalay Division and most of Magwe Division. Approximately one-quarter of the country’s population live in this area, according to the United Nations’ Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU).

The Rural Development Department estimates that more than 1,700 villages across Burma may experience water shortages and around 1,000 of them are likely to face it within the month.

The department has prepared a budget of more than 78 million kyats (US$65,000) to tackle water shortages this month, with the incoming National League for Democracy (NLD) government expected to allocate similar funding for April and May from the 2016-17 fiscal year budget, according to the Border Affairs Ministry.

Phyo Phyo, a local of Dala, a township located south of the commercial capital Rangoon that usually faces annual water shortages, told The Irrawaddy: “Some wards in the township are already short of water. Though [authorities] pipe water to some places, most of the residents have to rely on donors. I wish everyone got water piped to them.”

The government and environmentalists have warned that Irrawaddy, Mandalay and Pegu divisions, and Arakan and Shan states, may face particularly severe shortages due to El Niño.