Meteorologist Warns of Irrawaddy River Floods

By The Irrawaddy 23 February 2016

A prominent Burmese meteorologist warned of more flash floods throughout Burma after unseasonal rains caused rising river levels near the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina on Monday.

Following a prediction from Burma’s meteorology department that unseasonal downpours could occur in the coming week, meteorologist Tun Lwin wrote on his Facebook page Monday night that Kachin State had already experienced more than one inch of unexpected rainfall.

The precipitation fell upstream from the N’mai River in the northwestern reaches of Burma. According to reports from Kachin news agencies, a sudden surge in water levels inundated some shops at the confluence of the N’Mai and Mali rivers, which then form the Irrawaddy River, Burma’s largest waterway.

He also explained how ongoing environmental degradation could increase the volume of water that ends up in the Irrawaddy.

“Deforestation in northern Burma [means that the land] can’t retain the rain water. Even though it was a small amount of rainfall, the rain water rushed into the N’mai, causing a rise in water level in the river,” he explained.

“It’s a flash flood as well as a transboundary flood, too,” Tun Lwin said.

“Apart from droughts, we may [also] have that kind of flood this year due to El Niño,” he added, in reference to a weather pattern known to cause changes in precipitation and temperature.

Kachin State towns situated on higher ground suffered in 2015 when heavy rains caused violent mountain torrents, which Tun Lwin related to the presence of fewer trees and forested areas that could retain the water.

During last year’s monsoon season, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that over one million people had been “critically affected” by flooding throughout Burma.