15 Jan 2021 - Source: Myanmar Times

Mandalay's Pyin Oo Lwin district is bracing for the worst drought in history, said U Lay Myint Aung, leader of the Sein Lann Pyin Oo Lwin natural environment group.

The district has been experiencing reduced rainfall in recent years with 2020 recording only half the usual amount of precipitation.

"The rainfall was very low in the last two consecutive years. Annual precipitation is approximately 50 inches in Pyin Oo Lwin and there were only about 26/27 inches of rain last year. Only about 27 inches of rain was recorded in the last two years respectively. This year will be the worst drought ever in history so preparations are necessary," said U Lay Myint Aung.

Last year's decreased rainfall saw volunteer groups, the municipal office and other private organisations band together to distribute water.

"Water starts to dry out in January and it is obvious around Kandawgyi Lake which lies on a higher ground level. The lake's water level is now low," said U Lay Myint Aung.

"Freshwater swamp forests in the villages are being fenced and sold. This results in fewer swamp areas which can absorb and retain the rainwater. The elected government needs to urgently address this situation. Pyin Oo Lwin is an example.'' he added.

Several existing dams in the country that are supposed to irrigate farms and generate electricity are also 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.

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.

The country's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, is considering to build more dams to address the increasing water scarcity in the country due to less rainfall.

U Myo Tint Htun, deputy permanent secretary of the ministry, said the proper use of rain harvesting techniques with cofferdams are in the workers and irrigation systems are being repaired in order to utilize water efficiently.

He said the ministry is considering the construction of dams for long-term operations as well,

Rainy season in Myanmar normally lasted approximately from May 15 till the end of October, but during the past few years, the rain started only in June and ends in September.

Those who cultivate flowers, fruits and vegetables are using groundwater by pumping and it is lowering the water level under the ground. Experts suggest that only rain harvesting techniques should be used later either individually or collectively. - Translated