Farmers urge authorities to fill Thapanseik dam with river water

story_3_1_0 Farmers harvest rice in Myanmar. Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing/The Myanmar Times

15 Dec 2020 - Source: Myanmar Times - Farmers in Sagaing's Shwebo township urged authorities to fill one of the largest dams in Southeast Asia with river water to ensure steady supply of water for the summer paddy planting season. They said filling the dam with river water is necessary as they have been experiencing water shortage for nearly two years due to low level of dam water.

"A letter was sent to us online to distribute water from Thapanseik dam in the beginning of February. The water is only enough for other crops but not for summer paddy," said a head of a ward from Shwebo.
"The water level is only 520 feet," he added. "The full water level of the dam is 545 feet. It was 535 feet this time in the previous years." 

The ward officer said the waster was not enough to supply summer paddy farms two years ago.
"The upper areas like Kawlin and Wuntho face drought," he said. "We have requested the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation to fill Thapanseik dam by connecting it to Meza or Chindwin or Ayeyarwady rivers."

Sagaing became Myanmar's second biggest rice granary due to the Thapanseik dam project and it was able to benefit a million of people in ten townships in the region. Relevant agencies were supposed to conduct a survey about the issue but nothing has been conducted yet till now, said the head of the ward.

Shwebo's farmers make a profit of K300,000 on an acre of summer paddy and K700,000 on an acre of monsoon paddy. Therefore, farmers who grow both summer and monsoon paddy on their 10 acres of land were able to make about K10 million per year but summer paddy had not been grown for two years due to drought.

The rice planted during the monsoon season is only for domestic consumption and not for export.
"Monsoon Paddy is called Pawsan and is only for domestic consumers. Summer paddy is for export. We were not able to export summer paddy as we couldn't grow it even though we had demand from China," the Shwebo ward official said.

This year, it was only in July when Thapanseik dam resumed distributing water to irrigate rice fields in Sagaing, seven months after ceasing operation due to low water levels.  The dam usually provides water to 121,400 hectares of summer rice and 202,300 hectares of monsoon rice every year. Thapanseik dam is 108 feet high, 22,587 feet long and stores 2.79 billion acre feet of water. The dam's water level declined for the first time in 20 years in 2019, and the ancient city of Ko Htet Nay Chi Thit emerged.

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