Framework for establishing environmental flows in the Ayeyarwady

The Australian Water Partnership (AWP) is supporting an Environmental Flows (e-flows) project in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady River Basin (ARB), with the objective of developing an e-flows policy framework for its adoption.

There are many flows-related challenges in the ARB, including the need to balance different elements of river development and regulation to control flooding, to provide water for irrigation and for hydropower production, and to maintain and improve navigation. At the same time, there are risks to important ecological assets, such as floodplains, which in turn link to critical livelihood issues.

A number of activities have established a comprehensive knowledge base through the development of the Ayeyarwady State of the Basin Assessment, funded by AWP. These include a hydrological data audit, development of a water resources model, an ecohydrology assessment and a basin ecosystem services assessment. In addition, there has been some initial activity to develop an understanding of e-flows in Myanmar.

The current project aims to build on these activities and provide options and advice on how e-flows can be adopted in Myanmar, focusing on the ARB. This includes approaches for technical assessments as well as policy frameworks and case study options to test the technical assessment approaches.

AWP has engaged Alluvium to lead the activity, with specific input from the World Wide Fund for Nature, Myanmar; Badu Advisory; Natural Capital Economics; Latrobe University Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems; and the Australian Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, who is providing advice from a policy practitioner perspective.

An initial scoping mission was carried out in Yangon and Naypyitaw from 10–14 June 2019, where project partners met with relevant government departments to discuss how the project could best support the work of each department, the level of each department’s involvement, the best approach for engaging with stakeholders and their specific capacity-building needs.

Participants at the Symposium and Workshop on ‘Customizing e-flows to Myanmar’, Yangon, 29–30 October 2019

It was found that all departments recognise the importance of e-flows and that close collaboration with Myanmar’s Hydro-Informatics Centre and National Water Resources Committee would be critical for successful uptake and ownership. It was also decided that the training of Young Water Professionals would be an important element of capacity building.

A small workshop with stakeholders was held on 1 October 2019, summarising the project outcomes so far and highlighting next steps. This was followed closely by a Symposium and Workshop on ‘Customizing e-flows to Myanmar’ on 29–30 October.

The workshop was jointly organised by IHE Delft team (including Charles Sturt University), Yangon Technical University and AWP Activity Team. Attendees also included NGOs and Myanmar Government representatives from the Department of Water Resources and Improvement of Rivers; Environment and Conservation Department; Department of Fisheries; Irrigation and Water Utilization Management Department; and Department of Hydropower Implementation.

‘Customizing e-flows to Myanmar’ workshop participants, Yangon, 29–30 October 2019

The Symposium presented a comprehensive options paper, which described some opportunities for incorporating e-flows within existing policy setting and options for e-flows assessment methods. The paper also concluded with a section on implementing a case study using the proposed assessment approaches and a preferred sub-basin identified. The next steps will involve testing these approaches and methods in the sub-basin.

Feature photo: Wooden houses on piles inhabited by the tribe of Inthar, Inle Lake, Myanmar (Photo: Adobe Stock / danhvc)
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