4.3.5 Flood management in Myanmar
It is during the monsoon season that the country is most prone to flooding. Myanmar has an intricate river system, with vast river basins and a delta region. The rivers fill to capacity, often bursting their banks and causing flooding in the towns and villages alongside the rivers. Such riverine flooding is increasingly common as the monsoon increases in intensity. The monsoon also causes coastal flooding, as tropical storms from the Bay of Bengal generate storm surges and cause floods along the Rakhine coastline.
From time to time, there is urban and localised flooding in the cities and towns due to heavy rains, saturated soil and poor infiltration rates, together with inadequately maintained infrastructure (such as blocked drains). In the rural areas, water barriers such as dams, dykes and levees fail which destroys valuable farmlands (UN Habitat, n.d.).
Mitigation and preparedness measures are needed to limit these water management issues that can lead to loss of life, property and infrastructure. Currently, no single institution is responsible for the management of water resources, which is very sectoral: several ministries and government departments are managing water resources separately according to their own policies and mandates.
For example, there are ten water-related Ministries and three major City Development Committees (in Yangon, Mandalay and Nayphidaw), which manage water resources. There is little coordination of approaches (Aung Min, n.d.). For example, the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology is part of the Ministry of Transport and Communication, and is responsible for the water assessment of major rivers, whilst the Department of Irrigation is part of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation and is responsible for the provision of irrigation water to farmland.
Just as there are many different agencies and ministries involved in water management in Myanmar, there are also a number of applicable laws. Most of the prevailing legislation pre-dates 2000, but there have been some recent initiatives such as the Conservation of Water Resources and River Law, which was enacted in October 2006, and the Environmental Conservation Law, which was enacted in March 2012. The National Environmental Quality (Emission) Guidelines followed in 2015, setting standards for wastewater (Aung Min, n.d.).
The National Water Policy (NWP) was established in 2014. It is the first integrated water policy for the watersheds, rivers, lakes and reservoirs, groundwater aquifers and coastal and marine waters in Myanmar. It will eventually lead to a system of laws and institutions to implement the policy guided by the Myanmar Water Framework Directive (MWFD).
There is a need for more integrated, basin-wide water resources management and planning for the allocation of water resources for different water users. Data that is more reliable is required in order to have a more detailed analysis of the current status of water resources including meteorological and hydrological data, which through modelling can help forecast flooding. Data currently can be found only on an administrative area level, instead of river basin level, which prevents a good comparison of different basins for agricultural and hydropower purposes for example. This makes managing water resources at the basin level very difficult, as the catchment area is not looked at as a hydrological entity, resulting in a lack of consideration of the downstream effects of human activities.
The construction of reservoirs, levees and sluice gates, and dredging of creeks is needed, but these individual actions need to be part of an Integrated Water Policy build on accurate data. The government are moving towards an integrated water resource management law to effectively conserve and manage Myanmar’s water resources. This is happening in collaboration with the private sector, non-governmental organisations and international organisations.