Source: The Myanmar Times

Date: 16 February, 2018


Riverbank erosion is becoming a major challenge to rural development in Myanmar because it damages not only people's homes but also their livelihoods, according to the Department of Disaster Management.

The agency noted that bank erosions on major rivers, such as the Ayeyarwady, Chindwin, Sittaung and Sanlwin, have affected several townships in Ayeyarwady Region.

"People who live on the banks lose their houses and farms due to erosion," said U Than Soe, director of the Department of Disaster Management in Ayeyarwady Region.

"It can affect their livelihoods and generate more problems related to rural development," he added. "Bank erosion occurred 300 times more in 2017 than in 2016."

Among the areas more prone to erosion are the river banks in Hinthada, Ingapu, Maubin, Nyaungdon and Zalun townships.

U Aung Ko Ko Kyaw, a resident of Htigyaing in Sagaing, said that the road between Htigyaing and Kathar has been damaged by erosion of the Ayeyarwady river bank.

"The road has become narrow because of erosion. Some houses near the river bank were moved to safer places last year," he said.

"Although erosion is not serious like before, the land gradually becomes lower," U Aung Ko Ko Kyaw said. "Only small vehicles can pass through that road and we have to be cautious when we are using it."

U Aung Ko Ko Kyaw said the retaining wall in No. 2 quarter in Htigyaing that was constructed last year has been destroyed by erosion.

U Aung Ko Ko said a lot of vehicles used to pass through that road as it is a shorter and more convenient route to Kathar.

"The new road that has been constructed cuts through a mountain, and is very hilly," he said.

The Myanmar Action Plan on Disaster Risk Reduction 2017 stated that river bank erosion is one of the challenges the country is facing in recent years. It said 261 lives were lost due to erosion between 2014 and 2017.

U Ko Ko Oo, deputy director general of the Directorate of Water Resources and Improvement of River System, said that about 381 square kilometres of riverbank eroded in 47 townships along the Ayeyarwady from Nyaungdon township in Ayeyarwady to Myitkyina towhship in Kachin State between 1987 and 2016.

He attributed the erosion to heavy siltation, deforestation of major river basins, illegal mining and rampant dumping of solid materials in streams.

He added the lack of a national forecasting system for erosion, and the increasing emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that cause climate change and intense precipitation also contributed to increasing erosion of riverbanks.

"It (erosion) seriously affects the social and economic development of Myanmar," U Ko Ko Oo said at the Asia Pacific Water Summit that was held in Yangon on December 11 and 12.

"Scientific monitoring and river basin management is very important. But technical and financial requirements are still challenges," he added.

Professor Maung Maung Aye, an environment, resource and engineering consultant, noted that while erosion is a normal process in rivers, it becomes a big issue in Myanmar as people reside on riverbanks.

"Every related department must raise the awareness of the public not to stay near riverbanks," he said. The national and local governments need to cooperate to reduce and prevent erosion."