Development could hurt Ayeyarwady River: environmentalists

Photo People live and work along the Ayeyarwady River. Si Thu Lwin/The Myanmar Times

10 May 18 Environmentalists and conservationists have warned that unbridled economic development along the Ayeyarwady River could cause irreversible harm to its ecosystem.

"Damage has been done to some extent to the river's ecosystem by urban development and economic expansion. We need to protect the river immediately," said U Myo Thit, minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation in Mandalay Region.

U Myo Thit underscored the importance of the role water plays in the development of the country and stressed the need to ensure sustainability in the use of this natural resource.

"The ecosystems of rivers support economic development. The Ayeyarwady River has given so much support for the economic development of our country. It is a gift from Mother Nature."

The Water Resources and Rivers Development Department is carrying out river bank erosion protection as well as river beautification and enhancement to jumpstart efforts to save the river.

The WWF Myanmar said the results of a study it conducted from the source of the Ayeyarwady River to its mouth, as well as the present conditions of the people living along the river will be submitted to the Union government.

Discussions about the results of the study on the role of river in Myanmar's economy will be held for the second time in Mandalay, Monywa, Pathein, and Pyay cities, said Dr Hannah Baleta, coordinator of WWF Myanmar's River in the Economy.

She added that preparations are being made to conduct a study in Myitkyina town, which is located near the river source.

"The findings will be submitted to the Union government, National Water Resources Committee so that they can be utilised in the Ayeyarwady River Study Project funded by the World Bank," she said. "Studies have been conducted on the lives of people along the river, production of sand and stones, the condition of businesses dependent on the river, and fishing."

"This is not one project, but we're providing assistance so that the results of the studies are beneficial to [future] projects," Hannah Baleta said.

The first discussion was held in January 2018 in the same four cities, and it was discovered that there were problems in local fishing and sand and stone production, so negotiations are being carried out to improve things.

"The first time we made an assessment of the situation on the river," Baleta said. "This time there would be discussions on future prospects and the consequences of big projects on the Ayeyarwady."

The river's condition and an economic assessment of the river started in May 2017 and will end in August 2018.

​Source: The Myanmar Times

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