In accordance with Myanmar National Waste Management Strategy and Master Plan, current status of wastewater management is facing with challenges in inadequate wastewater and sanitation services. As reported by the research on solid waste management of large resettlements in Yangon, Mandalay, and Naypyitaw have urban sanitation services that are well below acceptable levels, with the situation worse in other poor regions and areas of the country.

Furthermore, the role of wastewater management cannot be negligible in achieving green and healthy environment when the disposal of untreated wastewater heavily impacts on the human health, surrounding environment and natural habitats of biodiversity. But how and why is this happening? Well, if you are curious about this issue, this article is what you are looking for.

We have conducted Ko Si Thu Tun, a wastewater expert who is currently working as a wastewater process engineer through video conferencing interview since the nationwide lockdown has been ruled out under this current global pandemic situation. In this interview, you will see current wastewater challenges facing in Myanmar and its impacts on nature.

Eutrophication  

First and foremost, Ko Si Thu Tun briefly explained about how the undisciplined discharge of domestic wastewater to the environment brought up its alarming ecological problem, eutrophication.

"Domestic sewage produced from residential areas contains high concentration of nitrogen and phosphorus and if we let them flow into a natural lake without treating properly, a lake enriched in those organic wastes will lead to eutrophication," he said.

Eutrophication has become one of the most challenging environmental concerns in the recent years since it results in deterioration of water quality and threatening the lake biodiversity. When a lake is enriched with dissolved nutrients and sediment from surrounding watershed area, it stimulates the growth of aquatic plant life and leads to the depletion of dissolved oxygen in the lake.

Eutrophication in the drainage near Thein Phyu township, Yangon, Photo – Si Thu Tun

Eutrophication is a natural process that a lake undergoes through over hundreds to thousands of years. However, when human speed the process up by adding excess nutrients and sediment, this kind of eutrophication is regarded as a cultural eutrophication.

"As the drainage system of Yangon is not good enough and due to the overflow and leakage of sewages, you can even see eutrophication process in the drains of Yangon. Then, although some high-rise buildings provided own sewage treatment plants, the accurate inspection is still needed," he added an example of eutrophication process in Yangon.

Based on the research data resource from Yadanabon University, Taungthatman lake which is situated in Amarapura Township of Mandalay Region on the eastern bank of Ayeyarwady River has undergone cultural eutrophication process. The chemical deposited from the fertilizer used in agricultural farms, sewage disposal from the communities near the lake and other human activities led the lake causes pollution. The eutrophication levels of Taungthatman lake is ranged from medium to high seasonally. The pollution level of lake reaches to medium level known as mesotrophic level mostly in rainy season and some parts in cold season. In contrast, it reaches to high level which is also called eutrophic level in hot season and some parts in cold season. (Ref. Seasonal Changes on Eutrophication Levels of the Taungthaman Lake Water (2018-2019)) 

Community Health Risks  

Here, we can understand how the wastewater disposal sector is significantly important to public health. Ko Si Thu Tun mentioned about the influential factors of sanitary wastewater on human health. He clarified that mostly in rural areas of Myanmar where close to water resources such as lake, river and stream, the locals are unnoticeably disposing greywater directly to these water resources and consequently, this behavior happens serious health problems like diarrhea.

Industrial Wastewater Management  

Si Thu Tun at an Anaerobic digester in Myanmar

On the one hand, industrial wastewater issue also plays a critical role in this industrialization age as this wastewater can be hazardous and toxic wastes for the earth. According to industry specific guidelines of National Environmental Quality Guidelines, there are limited parameters for the disposal of compounds produced from industrial wastewater. Regardless of the enacted rules and guidelines for the discharge of industrial wastewater, the follow-up actions by the industrialists are still in the dissatisfying stage since the cost amount to operate the treatment plant is higher than the affordable range and there is still lack of awareness of the environmental health risks.

The cooperation of technicians, industrialists and responsible persons is indeed a necessity to promote technological and public awareness in industrial wastewater sector. And Ko Si Thu Tun suggested this condition from his own perspective, "I think the centralized system could be a solution in dealing with wastewater disposal struggles of industries." 

Centralized Wastewater Treatment in Myanmar  

The individual wastewater treatment facilities are incapable of operating due to the above mentioned factors, thereafter, the current industrial wastewater sector is introducing the centralized systems of wastewater treatment plants mainly in industrial zone in the cities of Yangon, Mandalay and Monywa.

Thilawa Special Economic Zone wastewater treatment project is the collaboration of Myanmar and Japan offering sewage treatment of 4,800m3 per day. The Mingaladon Industrial Park runs the centralized wastewater treatment plant to treat the collective wastewater capacity of 5,000m3 per day under the rules and regulations of respective wastewater quality criteria.

Additionally, the central industrial treatment system has successfully constructed in Mandalay Industry Zone (2) with the 65% financial support from Responsible Business Fund (RBF) Myanmar and 35% aid from local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The establishment of centralized wastewater treatment plant will solve the environmental degradation problem around Dokhtawady river and this projected was implemented to treat over 60,000 gallons of wasterwater produced from 23 leather processing factories. The very first centralized wastewater treatment facilities in Monywa were installed in Monywa Industry Zone for the purpose of treating 800m3 of sewage per day which will be discharged from leather processing and vermicelli production factories.

Written by Thidar Maung Maung.


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