Summary and Dialogue of Episode 2 - Let's Talks about Chindwin River Basin Organization in Myanmar
On 7th of August, 2020, Myanmar Water Portal broadcast the "Let's Talk About Water – Talk show". Episode 2 with guest speakers, Dr. Win Maung from Myanmar Environment Institute (MEI), Ma May Thazin Aung and Ma Than Htway Lwin from Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI – Asia). A regular host, Kyaw Nyunt Linn made an opening speech and initiated the topic "Chindwin River Basin Organization". In 2018, he wrote about the overview of activities regarding biodiversity, ecosystem services, water quality monitoring and livelihoods in Chindwin River. Find out more here.
Introduction of the speakers
Dr. Win Maung is a Chairman of Myanmar Environment Institute. Withhis 15-year experience in Myanmar, he took charge of empowering Civil Society and Governmental Agencies to Mainstream Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Values into Development Plans, Water quality monitoring research, Research on the River morphology and river dynamics for the Chindwin River Basin.
Ma May Thazin Aung is a Research Fellow with SEI Asia working on policy analysis and stakeholder engagement. In Myanmar, May has used action research and stakeholder engagement to help SEI and Myanmar partners in establishing the Chindwin River Basin Organization towards promoting evidence-based decision-making and public participation for enhanced water resource governance.
Ma Than Htway Lwin is a National Coordinator in SEI – Asia. Htway is mainly involved in the "Chindwin Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services" project on mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystem services into policies and plans in Myanmar. She bridges researchers and communities; government agencies and policymakers by organizing multi-stakeholder engagement, focus group discussions and research surveys.
About Chindwin River
The Chindwin River Basin Organization (Chindwin RBO)
The Chindwin RBO is considered a mechanism to support integrated water resources management, ensuring environmentally and socially sustainable development in this vital river basin.
The speakers elaborated on the roles and responsibilities of Chindwin RBO and how it can support national development by encouraging local communities to provide inputs in Myanmar.
The discussion focused on the structure and operation of Chindwin RBO, and why it is necessary and important. Moreover, speakers shared their ideas of the collaboration among different stakeholders to tackle environmental issues in the Chindwin Basin.
This was followed by a dialogue between the guest speakers, host and participants during the talk show.
Following are the
- dialogue in the talk show
Kyaw - If someone leading an organization wants to support development in the Chindwin River Basin, how can they get support from CRBO?
Htway - Any organization can cooperate with CRBO by engaging with concerned sub-committee of CRBO for further support. Different sub-committees are in charge of different aspects of CRB development. So it depends on what is the focus of such organization (e.g. research and development, legal issues, finance, communications). They can either contact with the Secretary of CRBO or Secretary of that sub-committee. Local community-based organizations can also inform about their difficulties to the CRBO through their represented parliamentarians, as many of them are part of the Chindwin RBC. Some of the parliamentarians are not part of the Chindwin RBC but often participate in the parliamentarian meetings at the regional level where the issues can be brought for discussion and seeking the joint solutions.
Kyaw - What is the benefit for organizations in linking with the CRBO?
May - Local organizations who raise their issues to the CRBO can ensure that the voices of local communities are heard by relevant government and non-government actors that are represented in the RBO. RBO members include government line agencies, parliamentarians, private sector and members of academia. Having diverse representation, backgrounds and expertise in the RBO helps to ensure that complex issues can be understood and supported through the different members of the RBO.
Kyaw - If they want to join the CRBO in developing the Chindwin River Basin, how can they start?
Htway - The community-based organization can contribute to Chindwin development within their capacity by engaging with the concerned sub-committee of the CRBO for potential cooperation. As you can see in the CRBO's structure, in future we have an ambition to engage more with the communities or community-based organizations who wish to organize themselves and take action towards sustainable development of the Chindwin basin under the name of "Chindwin Communities for the Futures (CCF)" to play the role in CRBO e.g. awareness-raising, local monitoring and development.
A lot of things are happening in the Chindwin River Basin and we also understand there are indigenous people who are undertaking mining activities which can cause water degradation. This makes it dangerous for people to continue using the river for drinking, bathing or washing.
Kyaw - What if water pollution is happening in the river, how can CRBO take action towards this issue? How can they manage the situation?
Dr Win Maung- Water quality degradation and pollution is a big issue in the Chindwin River and other main tributary rivers such as Uru, where mining activities are ongoing. In fact, there are many governmental organizations in charge of these issues, but this problem cannot be solved sustainably yet, largely because of constraint on available resources (human, technology and funding) to monitor the situation and enforcing the regulations. Since 2015 until 2017, SEI and MEI supported water quality monitoring in Chindwin and Uru through Chindwin Futures program. After CRBO was established in 2017, Sagaing regional government (SRG) has allocated annual budget for DWIR to conduct routine monitoring of water quality in the basin annually until now. MEI and SEI provide technical support on this process. The cooperation between the universities with the governmental departments was not done much in the past. But through the coordination within CRBO sub-committees, the universities e.g. Monywa University also cooperates with DWIR in conducting water sampling regularly. The results of these monitoring are submitted to the SRG for consideration and further actions. This is an ongoing effort but won't be enough. If we can engage with local communities and local community-based organizations to support local monitoring at several locations and several times per year, it would be more effective. This needs all parties including the communities and wider public to cooperate.
Dr.Thanapon Piman (attended as a participant, Water Cluster Lead - SEI) – When SEI started working in Chindwin River Basin in 2013, there was no evidence of degradation of water quality in the Chindwin River. However, based on stakeholder participation, we found that local people have concern about water pollution. To address this concern, we provided recommendations to decision makers to find the evidence to strengthen water quality monitoring programme during 2015-2017. The monitoring data is important for analyzing status of water quality along the river and this information is provided to CRBO in 2018 to identify priority actions to tackle this problem. The CRBO and Sagaing regional government has organized "Saving Chindwin Day" to raise public awareness on water quality issues and seek support from communities to protect the river from pollution. Unfortunately, water quality standard does not exist yet in Myanmar. This causes a challenge to identity suitable measures to manage water pollution from different sources.
Kyaw - If we don't know the value of its existence and future vision towards economic development on Chindwin River Basin, can CRBO support to create a road map?
May - The CRBO comprises several ministries that are responsible for creating a road map. The CRBO will serve as the bridge to merge top-down mechanism for the development plan and decisions from the union government and bottom-up approach by engaging with different stakeholders from the basin to define their needs.
While CRBO does not have the mandate or authority to create the roadmap for basin development by its own, they can serve as the platform to help facilitate the discussion on appropriate bridging both mechanisms (top-down and bottom-up) for the sustainable development for people in the basin. Through contribution of different sub-committees and external supports from different projects to Chindwin, apart from being facilitator for such discussion CRBO may be able to feed some evidences and recommendations on future options (e.g. such as through research activities) for stakeholders to consider and take joint decisions as well.
Q(participant) - Is CRBO supporting any flood management policy in the Chindwin, as there is often heavy flooding during the monsoon season?
May – CRBO's secretary is the DWIR, which is already active in managing the floods in the Chindwin River. They have direct link to people who have been affected by flood. So they carry out routine duties for managing flood, raising awareness and addressing disasters. As they are a part of the CRBO, they are able to talk with the other members of the CRBO to ensure that flood management can be improved in the future.
Dr. Chayanis Krittasudthacheewa (attended as a participant, Project Leader of Chindwin Futures Project) – CRBO is playing a crucial role not only doing the actions as the individual members or individual organizations themselves. The members of CRBO, eg, DWIR as the CRBO's secretary coordinates with other agencies to address these problems in cooperative way. CRBO also provide a platform to engage other external supporters for various activities beyond normal capacity that the country can do by herself, Myanmar through different projects funded by external funders. Recently, SEI and MEI in close partnership with FAO, UNIQUE, Mercy Corps, and RECOFTC are helping Myanmar's government in developing the proposal for submission to Green Climate Fund (GCF) to help enhance several systems including early warning system which in the future could address flood and drought in the river basin. In the past, we see that many agencies in Myanmar tried to address these issues, but, it is not that easy because of the constraints, eg, financial resources, technologies, and also limited capacities in terms of understanding and experience how to address these kinds of complex issues. In early 2015, Chindwin River Basin is facing serious drought. Later on, only one or two months suddenly, there were a lot of flash floods and many people died. These kinds of problems linking with climate change are more complex than what people have been facing normally in the past. So, by having this CRBO, helping, advising and informing priority needs for designing different projects, it is useful for guiding and making sure that any support to the basin would directly address the key problems. In the past, the project teams can reach only few agencies to get the inputs for project design, but, by linking with the CRBO, they can have an opportunity to access and interact with many agencies and people. Not only the governmental agencies but other groups e.g. women associations, and even some people who were not normally asked to response to the question related to the risks of climate change, flood, drought and other issues that they are facing frequently. Thus, I think this kind of platform that the CRBO could offer is very useful and important.
Q (participant) - Could you please share the major challenges (especially in the context of Myanmar) in forming CRBO, being the interface of science and policy and also in phases of implementation?
Dr Win Maung – Since CRBO is the first RBO in Myanmar, there were a lot of challenges in trying to establish the CRBO. We had to approach different parties and stakeholders like regional governments particularly Sagaing, Magway, Chin, and Kachin states. As most of the parts of the Chindwin River Basin is in Sagaing, we first approached Sagaing regional government. At first there were some difficulties in approaching, but, after 2011, the time of transformation of the politics and economy; it became easier to approach the regional governments.In 2014, we started the process in designing the CRBO with the support of SEI.In this stage, all the resources were from SEI and donors of the projects that SEI developed. And we (MEI) with local knowledge of the government, people and how to approach different stakeholders including government. For the scientific communities, like universities, research organizations, since they know that there are concerns in the Chindwin River, there were no problems in approaching them. Also, most of the members of parliaments are from the communities, they know the urgent need to improve the Chindwin River. So, we have succeeded to approach all these different stakeholders. SEI and MEI together with the strong support of SRG and DWIR tried to conduct many stakeholders and consortium meetings. DWIR also played an important role in this case. The main challenges are how to construct the organization structure and how to draw the policies of the RBO.
May – We relied very much on in-kind contribution of the members of CRBO, who attended the meetings and gave recommendations based on their expertise. So long-term sustainability of finance to maintain active momentum and operation of the CRBO is a big issue. Since the Chindwin River Basin is so big and diverse with different types of ethnic groups, and many remote local communities, it is still quite a challenge although we have a new project now with SEI, MEI, local government and local communities to conserve wetlands. We can only very slowly engage them to be part of the CRBO (considering available limited resources).
Dr Win Maung – I want to add that the Sagaing regional government also supports by providing an office to serve as the CRBO Secretariat office in the central area of Monywa city where we conduct seminars and meetings, in addition to the annual budget for the water quality monitoring activities through the DWIR.
Q (participant) – Can someone share about the Chindwin River Health Monitoring Plan or anything else?
May – The work that we are now doing is part of a huge effort to restore the degraded areas due to mining in the Chindwin River Basin as well as efforts to improve DRR through installing monitoring stations and engaging very closely with a lot of communities especially with ethnic and remote communities, so that these are very much a part of improving the Chindwin River Basin. Those efforts are sort of undermined by poverty and issues of core developments in the Chindwin River Basin. So, those questions will resurface again in discussions in improving the health of the Chindwin River Basin.
Written by Kyaw Nyunt Linn | Myanmar Water Portal
Note taken by Thinzar Mon | Myanmar Water Portal