Rural wells running dry, villagers seek aid

Photo A woman fetches water at a nearly dry well in Magwe Region. The Myanmar Times

30 Apr 19 - Source: Myanmar Times - For the past two months Myanmar's countryside has been sizzling hot, with daytime temperatures averaging 40 degrees Celsius and above.

Wells and lakes have dried up, as have streams, which are the traditional source of water for tens of thousands of villagers. There was less rainfall during last year's rainy season, so the traditional sources of water dried up early, according to U Soe Win, a resident of Shaw Phyu village in Meiktila township, Mandalay Region.

"We want no gold, just give us water," U Soe Win said. U Soe Win said some of the wells and underground ponds still have water but it has turned salty so that even cattle would not drink it. "The water shortages started earlier this year. Water ponds we used for drinking are now dry and the pond at the monastery is no longer safe for drinking," he said. U Soe Win said that while they suffer from water shortages every summer, this year the problem is more severe. "Some kind-hearted people came to distribute drinking water, but it was not enough. We hope social service groups will come to distribute more," he said.

In most villages in northern Myanmar, people pump their water from tube wells. But sometimes they could not find water even after digging down more than 1000 feet.

Those living near rivers are luckier, as the government has provided machines to pump water to their villages, but those living in the hills and upland are left to their own devices.

U Win Aung, a local resident of Turon Tine village in Nyaung-U township, said villagers have to walk two miles to fetch drinking water. "We have to rely on a tube well that is about two miles away from the village for drinking water," he said, "so we have to ask donors for help."

Ko Zaw Pway, a member of Thu Mingalar water donation association in Nyaung-U, said that more villages are asking for help with drinking water. He said his group has cooperated with another association, the Phyu Sin Metta, to send a 1500-gallon water truck to villages that need water. "We cannot be sure to get fresh water even if we dig wells more than 1000 feet deep in these villages," he said. "Sometimes the water is salty, so if people drink it, they can become ill," he said.

The Department of Rural Development said that 208 villages in 93 townships across the country have water shortages. More than 1.3 million litres of water have been distributed to 75 villages in 30 townships in 10 regions and states so far this year, it said, and 2221 water distribution projects will be carried out in 2177 villages this year.

In Mandalay, the regional government is digging 91 deep wells and ponds to ease the shortage at a cost of K1.8 billion, the department said. U Soe Than, director of the department, said water supply projects have been carried out in 40 villages in Pyin Oo Lwin, Kyaukse, Meiktila, Myingyan, Yamethin and Nyaung-U townships at a cost of K460 million. "It is a drinking water shortage. They have water for other uses but not for drinking," he said.

Mandalay's Village Administration Department said that as many as 81 villages in six townships are running out of water. "If there is no rain soon, more villages might ask for help," U Soe Than said. "We have had more requests (for drinking water) than last year because the rainy season started earlier last year."

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