More Myanmar dams are running dry ahead of summer months

1 High level of water is seen on the Lower Paunglaung dam used for hydro-electricity power generation on September 1, 2018, the peak of rainy season, east of capital Nay Pyi Taw. Photo: AFP

25 DEC 2020 - Source: Myanmar Times - More dams in Myanmar that are supposed to irrigate farms and generate electricity are running low of water and likely to be of little use during the coming summer months.

The latest to report low water level is the Myo Gyi dam in Ywarngan township in Shan State, which would not be able to supply water to the farmers for crop production in Kyaukse and Singaing townships. The Zawgyi and Zeetaw irrigated cultivation systems are distributed to over 100,000 acres of farmlands via the Myo Gyi dam and thus those farmers have been notified that summer water may not be available, said Regional Hluttaw MP U Hlaing Win from Singaing.
"The water level of Myo Gyi dam from Ywarngan in Shan State is life for Singaing and Kyaukse townships as they rely on it. This year is the lowest water level during five years," he said. "The current water level is over 30 feet lower than last year," he added. "It will be difficult for crop production if water is not able to be supplied. Therefore, farmers have been notified that water may not be available." U Hlaing Win said the water level in the dam will increase when it begins raining in April.

"If they ask for water, it will be distributed when its level reaches the capacity to generate hydropower," he said. "If not, water will be supplied through gate of the dam. The water in the dam is sufficient for crop production," said U Bo Bo Tun, official of Myo Gyi dam from the department of Irrigation and Water Utilization Management Department.

Generating hydropower has been suspended for more than a month due to the low water level. Right now, the water is supplied to cattle use and industries. The Kinda dam in Myitthar township in Mandalay Region is also running low of water supply, threatening the summer paddy production.

U Htin Kyaw Lin, staff officer at the Mandalay Region Irrigation and Water Utilization Management Department, said the Kinda Dam received the lowest water in a decade and won't be able to supply water during the coming summer months for crop production. He said the only thing Kinda Dam would be useful in the coming summer months after providing potable water to nearby communities, is to serve drinking water for cattle.
"After water distribution, the remaining level will be just about 110,000 acre/feet," U Htin Kyaw Lin said. "We have to keep the 60,000 acre/feet for dead storage level and thus only 50000 acre/feet can be utilised."
With low water, we won't be able to distribute for summer crops. It will be sufficient only for cattle drinking water supply," he added. "This year is the lowest water level during 10 years."

There are 147,171 acres of summer paddy in four townships -Myitthar, Kyaukse, Wundwin and Tada-U - which rely on irrigated water from the Kinda Dam and now they won't get water from the dam this year. However, for monsoon paddy and crops, the dam has sufficiently supplied water for 30 years since its construction.
"There are some years we can't supply water during summer," he said. "For nursery water to be used in monsoon paddy, we have to keep about 150000 acre/feet in the dam. We will need to collect another 100,000 acre/feet to supply water for monsoon crops."

U Soe Than, regional minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, said blamed deforestation of the water shed as one of the main reasons for the low level of dam water.
"There was low rainfall in the catchment areas of the Kinda Dam leading to low water level," he said, adding the water level is below the minimum to be able to generate electricity.

Earlier, farmers in nearby Sagaing Region are urging authorities to fill up the Thapanseik Dam with river water in order to be able to supply water for paddy cultivation during the summer months. Since last year, the dam water level has been at record low. This year it was only in July when it began distributing water.

The dam usually provides water to 121,400 hectares of paddy during summer months and 202, 300 hectares during the monsoon paddy cultivation. Environmentalists warned that the low rainfall experienced during the rainy season could be to the effects of climate change. Yet despite the perennial water shortage facing Myanmar during the summer months experienced during the past decade, some foreign interest groups, in connivance with local officials, are still proposing the building more dams for hydropower projects.

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