Balancing economic development in the face of escalating water challenges

Myanmar has an abundance of surface and groundwater resources, and yet despite the potential development of hydropower, agriculture and navigation, its economy remains one of the least developed in Southeast Asia. Myanmar is highly vulnerable to water-related disasters and declining water quality is an emerging issue due to urban waste, and untreated sanitation and industrial pollution.

About 66 percent of Myanmar’s population lives in the Ayeyarwady River Basin or approximately 35 million people. The transboundary river is about 2,170 km long, and its basin covers 413,710 km² of which 91 percent lies within Myanmar, 5 percent in China, and 4 percent in India. The Ayeyarwady Delta is also home to the critically endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin.

The Government of Myanmar’s Ministry of Transport (superseded by the Ministry of Transport and Communications) and National Water Resources Committee signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2015. The purpose of the MoU is to facilitate long-term cooperation between the two countries in the field of Integrated Water Resource Management specifically to ensure the development of Myanmar’s river basins is managed for the sustainable benefit of all people.

AWP’s ongoing commitment to supporting Myanmar’s water journey

The Australian Water Partnership (AWP) sees its relationship with Myanmar as mutually beneficial and seeks to continue to support activities that will lead to transformational changes in how water resources are managed across various government levels in Myanmar. AWP also looks to continue to engage in activities that are aligned with Australian niche water expertise and the Australian water reform journey, as well as activities that provide a pathway for broader engagement and strengthen ongoing relationships.

  AWP-Myanmar Investment Strategy

AWP-Myanmar collaboration and support

From 2015–2018, AWP funded 21 activities in Myanmar. More than 20 Australian Partners have been involved in the Ayeyarwady Integrated River Basin Management Project, with four main areas of support: Ayeyarwady–Murray-Darling twinning relationship; Myanmar Young Water Professionals Program; Ayeyarwady State of the Basin Assessment Review and Synthesis; the Ayeyarwady Basin Exploratory Scoping Study; and the Groundwater Review of the Central Dry Zone.

Myanmar Portfolio

Ayeyarwady Integrated River Basin Management

Improving river basin planning and technical capacity in Myanmar as part of the Ayeyarwady Integrated River Basin Management Project, a five-year US$100M World Bank initiative.

Ayeyarwady–Murray-Darling Basin Twinning

A twinning relationship between government departments from Myanmar and Australia to improve river basin planning with an emphasis on peer-to-peer mentoring of staff.

State of the Basin Assessment Review and Synthesis

Laying the foundation for developing an Ayeyarwady Integrated River Basin Management Plan to guide policy and planning decision-making.

Myanmar Young Water Professional Program

A joint Australia–Netherlands program to support the Myanmar Government in training and mentoring the next generation of water leaders.

Hydrological Data Audit

A comprehensive review of hydrometric and meteorological data to help inform evidence-based decision-making in the Ayeyarwady Basin.

Basin Water Pollution Survey

A baseline analysis of water pollution in the Ayeyarwady Basin as an input into the State of the Basin Assessment process.

Basin Ecosystem Services Evaluation

Valuing ecosystem services in the Ayeyarwady Basin to quantify and understand its natural capital, and improve economic productivity.

Basin Exploratory Scoping Study

A rapid exploration of development and conservation pathways to inform an Ayeyarwady Basin Master Planning process.

Groundwater Review of the Central Dry Zone

A major 30-year study providing detailed analysis and mapping of groundwater resources for Myanmar’s Central Dry Zone.

C-14 Groundwater Analysis

Radiocarbon dating of major regional groundwater systems as part of the Groundwater Review for the Central Dry Zone, Myanmar.

Eco-Hydrology Assessment

An ecohydrological assessment of the Ayeyarwady River Basin as an input into the State of the Basin Assessment process.

Establishing a scientific evidence base for planning in the Ayeyarwady Basin, Myanmar

Australia’s continued support for the Ayeyarwady River Decision Support System (DSS) and Basin Master Plan (BMP) builds upon the Ayeyarwady State of the Basin Assessment (SOBA).

Myanmar State of the Basin Assessment (SOBA) dissemination

Transitory Mekong Support was delivered through a number of Activities, including Myanmar State of the Basin Assessment (SOBA) dissemination, in 2018-19.

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