Promoting Satellite-based River Morphological Change Monitoring System in Myanmar

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There are four mandates related to river management: first is to utilize the rivers waters for domestic use and agriculture year-round, secondly to cooperate with other organizations in demarcation of dangerous water levels, thirdly to protect against river bank erosion and flooding and last but not least to improve navigation channels and to stabilize the inland river ports.

The Ayeyarwady river system must be sustainably managed through delicate balance of both grey and green infrastructures for mitigating the effects of riverbank erosion along its 2000 km length. These requires detailed assessment of historic hotspots, mapping post-monsoon changes to support quick assessment, and develop a warning mechanism for potential risk spots.

During the workshop, a seasonal river morphological change monitoring and warning system called "Dancing Rivers" was introduced, designed by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) using freely available satellite data.

This workshop built on existing tool such as "Dancing Rivers" to enhance the use of satellite data (optical and SAR) for better management of Ayeyarwady River and to identify operational pathways to support DWIR and other stakeholders in Myanmar to utilize this tool.

The workshop was organized by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) in collaboration with Myanmar's Directorate of Water Resources and Improvement of River Systems (DWIR-Yangon). It was held on the 29th of November at the DWIR office, Yangon. Representatives of

  • Directorate of Water Resources and Improvement of River Systems (DWIR)
  • Department of Disaster Management (DDM)
  • Department of Meteorology and Hydrology (DMH)
  • Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC)
  • Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU)
  • Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • WWF-Myanmar
  • Wildlife Conservation Society Myanmar Program
  • International Water Management Institute (IWMI) - Myanmar
  • Arcadis
  • The Water Agency
  • The Ayeyarwady Integrated River Basin Management (AIRBM) Project
  • Myanmar Environment Institute (MEI)

Dr. Karthi Matheswaran, Research fellow from SEI, introduced the Satellite-based river morphological monitoring system. He mentioned about the role of satellite data in monitoring river morphological changes and explained the approach of "Dancing Rivers" platform. The platform includes two tools:

1.Seasonal monitoring system for the Ayeyarwady River based on optical and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data

2.Monthly monitoring system for coastal erosion in Gulf of Mottama and river erosion in Chindwin (currently experimental) based on SAR data

It can monitor erosion and deposition in most sections of Ayeyarwady (Chindwin and Upper Ayeyarwady) and enable morphological dynamics assessment on any focused location for historical as well as current timeperiod(~30 years).

Furthermore, Mr. Dhyey Bhatpuria, Research Associate from SEI, presented about the historical river course changes in Ayeyarwaddy. Using the long term remote sensing images during the pre-monsoon and post-monsoon period of Ayeyarwady River from 1988 to 2019, a map of seasonal river course changes was created here. Similarly, a monthly monitoring system for the Chindwin River was introduced here. Also, a monthly monitoring system for the Gulf of Mottama was developed using microwave data to determine coastline erosion due to tidal bore here.

He displayed the morphological changes in the Ayeyarwady river near Pakokku region using seasonal monitoring system of "Dancing Rivers" tool and based on field verifications, the accuracy of the results were around 75-80%. It was emphasized that the seasonal monitoring system is more reliable and validated with field data, but the monthly monitoring system for rivers is still experimental and undergoing revisions.

Next, U Khun San Aung, Remote Sensing specialist from SERVIR-Mekong, presented about the coastal dynamics in the Gulf of Mottama behalf of OneMap Myanmar and Gulf of Mottama Project. He explained about mapping long term coastline changes using Google Earth Engine by free satellite imaginary and using a hybrid approach of manually on-screen digitizing by Sentinel-2 imagery and assumptions were confirmed by a Drone Survey in Oct-Nov 2019 and the system allows to compare changes between any yearly period between 1988 and now easily.

After that, the participants were divided into three groups demonstrating each monitoring systems and discussed about the user interface and the capabilities of the tool. According to the feedbacks, most participants found the tool useful and gave suggestions for future needs.

Then, current operational procedures on morphological changes at national and regional levels in DWIR and preliminary countrywide assessments including river morphological changes inBahmo, Simeekhon, Bago, Sittaung, Pakokku, Nyaung U, Hinthada, HteinTaw, and Aphyuk waterways were reported by Daw Khin Sam Thwe, Junior Engineer from DWIR.

And also, the regional level experiences of monitoring river bank erosion using the "Dancing Rivers" tool in Kyaung Kalay and Thankyne Village in Magway Region were presented by U Zaw Lwin, Director of DWIR (Magway Division).He explained that the Magway waterway of the Ayeyarwady River is facing morphological problems such as sedimentation in front of intake of structures (water treatment plants & power stations), scour around bridge piers, bank erosion and flood hazard. Among them, river bank erosion is the most pressing problem and so, SEI & DWIR studied the two locations with significant amount of erosion: Kyung Kalay Village in Salin Township and Thankyne Village in Pwint Phyu Township. Moreover, he displayed the results of erosion and morphological changes in these locations using "Dancing Rivers" tool and reported about the current bank erosion protection projects in Magway Division.

Afterward, participants were divided into groups and review existing standard operating procedures for monitoring river morphological changes and how the "Dancing Rivers" tool can be integrated into it. They also discussed the additional facilities needed within the tool and identify research gaps and capacity building needs for regional/national DWIR offices. Based on the discussion, the feedbacks included;

  • To calculate the area and rate of erosion/deposition
  • To detect the deforestation areas along river banks
  • To conduct advanced training
  • To determine actual river boundary width
  • To predict the erosion area for early warning
  • To pilot in upstream of Mandalay, Salay to Magway, Shwegin to Hinthada, the confluence of Chindwin and Ayeyarwady River and Thanlwin River estuary.

Lastly, Stated by Dr. Karthi Matheswaran, the preparation of the next steps for the river morphological change monitoring system are to conduct capacity building programme, to monitor for early warning of erosion and to upgrade monthly monitoring tool.

Written by Thinzar Mon from Yangon Technological University.


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