The Irrawaddy

Lawmaker Demands Accounting of Dam Maintenance Funds after Bago Flood

NAYPYITAW—Lawmaker U Tin Tun Naing grilled the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation about last week’s fatal dam burst in Bago Region, during Monday’s session of the Union Parliament.

The lawmaker expressed doubts that the ministry had conducted the proper annual maintenance work on the dam.

At least seven people were killed after the dam on Swar Creek in Bago’s Taungoo District was breached on Aug. 29.

“This shows that annual maintenance work was not carried out,” U Tin Tun Naing told reporters on Monday during a break in the parliamentary session. Parliament was meeting to discuss the national planning bill for fiscal 2018-19.

The lawmaker claimed that an average of around 70 billion kyats was allotted annually from the government budget to maintain dams and reservoirs across the country.

For fiscal 2018-19, 69 billion kyats had been allocated for the purpose, he said.

“So after the Swar Dam incident, there is a question. Is that money being used properly — is it really being used for maintenance work?” he asked.

When asked to comment on the issue by The Irrawaddy, Agriculture Ministry deputy permanent secretary U Myo Tint Tun said the ministry conducts regular maintenance on the dam, but the spillway had been unable to withstand “unusual” rainfall.

“Unlike previous years, it was submerged under nearly 2 feet of water this year. The spillway could not bear the weight and burst,” he said.

According to statistics issued by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement on Aug. 31, seven people were killed, three are still missing and more than 5,000 residents of Yedashe, Taunggu, Oktwin and Kyauk Gyi townships in Taungoo District were affected by flooding of the Sittaung River after the bursting of the dam.

Yedashe Township was hardest hit, with 185 houses completely destroyed. More than 300 houses and 10 monasteries were damaged.

The flooding also damaged parts of the Swar Creek Bridge on the Yangon-Mandalay Expressway, as well as the old Yangon-Mandalay road and the railroad between the cities.

Lawmaker U Tin Tun Naing asked the ministry to disclose its maintenance expenses for the Swar Creek Dam over the past five fiscal years.

Concerned ministers will be required to answer lawmakers’ questions after they finish discussing the national planning bill for fiscal 2018-19.