Experts seek better management of groundwater in Myanmar

expert-groundwater-seek-wat Photo: Supplied

31 Aug 2020 - Source: Myanmar Times - Experts submitted 32 recommendations on August 20 for the groundwater management bill in the Amyotha Hluttaw (Upper House) Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Committee.

U Myo Aung Htwe, project manager of the Yangon School of Political Science, who compiled the recommendations, said suggestions were collected from experts in groundwater, hydrogeology, and law.

"It is not enough to just give licences to pump groundwater and enforce rules," he said. "Also needed are collecting groundwater data, sharing data with the public, educating the public about groundwater, and planning to protect groundwater sources from contamination."

He said an advisory board, which would include experts, was important not only to manage groundwater sources efficiently but also to share information with the public on conserving groundwater and using it wisely.

He said the suggestions also focused on regularly analysing the condition of groundwater.

"Our discussion also focused on mapping water sources that contain iron or arsenic and to establish a data centre for these facts," he said.

The experts recommended changing the criteria for approval of groundwater pumping based on the level of the water table in the area.

They suggested including climate change planning and social justice concerns in groundwater management.

U Myo Aung Htwe said irresponsible extraction of groundwater can lead to ground sinking and other environmental effects, thus making social justice an important concern.

The school organised an online discussion of the groundwater management bill with experts and the public in mid-August.

U Maung Maung Aye, one of the experts who took part in the discussion said it is time for Myanmar to have water laws. "There is potential for a water-based economy in Myanmar if the country manages its water resources," he said.

U Ba Shwe, one of the experts who drew up the groundwater management bill, said the Burma Underground Water Act of 1930 had not been enforced properly and needs many changes.

"The British government enacted the law to support the sustainable use of groundwater," he said. "It also appointed a water officer to monitor the use of groundwater and to issue licences for groundwater extraction after he checked to make sure it would not damage the environment."

After 1988, the Yangon City Development Committee was no longer able to provide sufficient water to all areas of the city, so residents began digging unlicensed tube wells.

Experts expressed concern about the current rate of pumping, especially in Yangon, because of its rapid growth, and in the delta area, where there is a danger of saltwater intrusion into freshwater sources.

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