Mandalay, Myanmar –  May 29 – 31, 2017: New data collected for Ayeyarwady River

New data on key infrastructure, social indicators and environmental issues are being gathered and updated for the Ayeyarwady River between Mandalay and Nyaung Oo. The data will contribute to an environmentally and socially acceptable strategy for managing the future development of inland water transport (IWT) in Myanmar.

In view of the importance of IWT to the economy and development of Myanmar, improvements of the navigability of the Ayeyarwady River are being proposed. Such enhancements include river training structures (e.g. constructing groynes, guide bunds, bank protection works), dredging and installation of navigation aids such as signage, buoys and lighting.

These navigation improvement works will potentially generate economic benefits from increased shipping, but also significant social and environmental impacts on the river and on the people living along it. Yet, in data poor contexts like Myanmar, little information is available to assess these potential impacts and risks.

To address this issue, ICEM team members are gathering necessary data to improve understanding of the current status, the biophysical, geographical and socio-economic systems, specific potential impacts and major drivers of change and trends in and along the river. This, in turn, will lead to a more informed and improved dialogue between stakeholders and local communities.

The mission is a part of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP) for Subproject 1, Environmental and Social Assessment (ESA) for Stretch 1, and ESMP Monitoring and Reporting during Construction of Subproject 1 project. The project is being implemented under Sub-component 3.2: Navigation Improvements (Mandalay to Yangon with a focus on the Mandalay – Nyaung Oo section) of the Myanmar Ayeyarwady Integrated River Basin Management Project (AIRBMP).

Managed by the Directorate of Water Resources and Improvement of River Systems (DWIR) with support from the World Bank, the AIRBMP aims to develop and enhance navigation for the full navigable length of the river from Mandalay to Yangon. Its goals are to improve IWT in priority stretches of the Ayeyarwady River and to design a cost-effective and environmentally and socially acceptable strategy for managing the full length of the navigation channel.

ICEM team members travelled down the river for three days, from Mandalay downstream to Si Mee Khon and Pakokku to Nyaung Oo, mapping land-use and land cover along the way. In addition, the team recorded natural characteristics of this stretch of the river and collected data on social aspects such as location of villages, settlement areas, temples and industrial zones. Key infrastructure that were recorded included inland water ports, bridges and water intakes for domesntic and agricultural uses. Environmental data such as pollution, erosion, deposition, and embankment sites were also updated.

Local consultation at Ngwe Thauang Yan fishing village

Serious erosion of the riverbank in Zee Kyun fishing village along Ayeyarwady River

The project aims to set up the analytical underpinnings to inform the design and potential environmental and social impact assessment of future navigation enhancement interventions and development. There are two activities: (i) Preparation of ESIA and ESMP for several design options of river training structures and dredging (e.g., dredging operations, construction of guide bund, set of groynes and a longitudinal dam) to improve navigability within a specific area between Mandalay and Sagaing, or Sub-project 1; and (ii) Preparation of an ESA for Stretch 1 covering a length of the Ayeyarwady River of approximately 160 km between Mandalay and Nyaung Oo.

The ESIA assesses the baseline and potential impacts of river improvement works under Subproject 1, and the ESMP ensures that measures are put in place to avoid and mitigate impacts and enhance the sub-project benefits. Meanwhile, the ESA will contribute to a baseline understanding of key issues and trends affecting Stretch 1 of the Ayeyarwardy River and set the environmental and social framework for analysing options for resolving navigation bottlenecks in this stretch.

A boat navigating Ayeyarwady River

The data collected, and the resulting land-use and land-cover maps will serve as input for the upcoming assessments and for development of the ESA for Stretch 1. Parts of the data and maps will also be used to prepare the ESIA and ESMP for Sub-project 1. Outputs of both ESA and ESMP will be fed back into the preparation of the ESA.