Hilton Hotel, Naypyidaw, Myanmar – 14th November
On the 14 November, a huge milestone in sustainable water governance in Myanmar was reached with the launching of the Myanmar language edition of the first-ever published reference book on hydrogeology in the country, ‘Hydrogeology of the Dry Zone – Central Myanmar’. The book launch, funded by the Australian Water Partnership (AWP), took place in Myanmar’s capital of Naypyidaw.
The book is a straightforward resource, containing hydrogeological data and maps which provide information such as the location of artesian basins, arsenic and saltwater, and the depth of drilling required in different locations.
Although the Dry Zone is endowed with abundant surface water from the Ayeyarwady River, most flows happen in the wet season. Away from the Ayeyarwady River, the Dry Zone suffers from extreme water shortages. Approximately 75 per cent of the population in the Dry Zone rely on groundwater for drinking and domestic purposes. Villagers without tubewells travel great distances to collect water from shallow dugwells and polluted earth ponds, often leading to water-borne diseases. Accordingly, the provision of reliable, clean water supply to this area has been identified as a developmental priority.
The original English volume was a culmination of 30 years of Dr Len Drury’s work (Aqua Rock Konsultants) with assistance from the Groundwater Division, Irrigation and Water Utilization Management Department (IWUMD) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MOALI). The figures and maps were digitised by ICEM, and the text peer-reviewed by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).
Dr Len Drury (right) looking over photos from the original study in Myanmar’s Central Dry Zone in 1980s
Although finished in 1988, the book was not published at the time due to political circumstances in Myanmar. After being taken up again officially in 2016, it was finalised and published in English in 2017. A concerted effort from mostly retired staff from IWUMD was undertaken to translate the 260-page volume by hand, which was then digitised and printed along with large-scale map inserts and a CD containing the contents of the entire book.
The book launch was attended by over 100 representatives from government departments (including many of the original study team), academics from universities and research institutes, members of international organisations and representatives from local media groups. Gifts were presented to the translation team to acknowledge their great contribution.
“It was a significant undertaking for the committee of Myanmar experts to review the book chapter by chapter. Now, the book can be used as a critical resource in the management of groundwater in the region”, said Mr Alex Street, First Secretary of the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in his opening remarks.
Copies of the printed books were on display and provided to participants
Deputy DG of MOALI Tin Maung Aye Htoo (left) examining many of the hydrogeological maps from the book
After the book launching ceremony, discussions were held on current and future groundwater projects in the Dry Zone and beyond. It is intended that the book will be used as a key resource for students, academics, practitioners and policymakers alike for years to come in the sustainable utilisation of water resources in the region.
“At the time the study began in 1984, people had to search for water. There were many algae-filled pools and other challenges in accessing water. Since then there has been a great advancement – now in 2019 there are lots of supplies of good quality water in many places,” said Dr Len Drury, lead author of the volume.
Alongside the translation and dissemination of the book, various other activities for young water professionals were supported by AWP, including a Geographic Information System (GIS) training delivered by ICEM in April to build capacity related to spatial mapping software; groundwater model training delivered by HydroSimulations and Aqua Rock Konsultants in June; and a fact-finding mission in the same month to the Great Artesian Basin in South Australia to learn about successful artesian aquifer remediation works.
This increased capacity will lead to improved groundwater management strategies and policies, and in turn, provide benefits to agricultural production and the income generation capacity of local communities.