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


The Ayeyarwady is Myanmar’s largest river, the life-blood of Myanmar society and the nation’s most valuable water resource. It supports shipping, agriculture, tourism, healthy ecosystems and communities. Yet the Ayeyarwady Basin is under threat from unsustainable development. Rapid economic and population growth is increasing water demands for irrigation, domestic and industrial use. Energy demands are rising, increasing the push for hydropower dam development. These developments will impact the water resources of the Ayeyarwady River, and the people and biodiversity that depend on it.

On 6 November 2015, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar signed a water management focussed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Australian Government. The purpose of the MoU

is to facilitate long term cooperation between the two countries in the field of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), specifically to assist development of Myanmar’s river basins to be managed for the sustainable benefit
of all facets of Myanmar society. The MoU recognises the importance of knowledge and information management as critical ingredients for effective IWRM implementation.

Recognising Australia’s water management expertise, the Government of Myanmar (GoM) requested support from the Australian Water Partnership (AWP) to support river basin planning, as well as technical and professional capacity building activities as part of the Ayeyarwady Integrated River Basin Management Project (AIRBMP), a five-year US$100 million initiative financed by the World Bank (WB). Specifically, AWP was requested to support coordination for, and contribute to, a State of the Basin Assessment (SOBA) for the Ayeyarwady River Basin.


The SOBA establishes a comprehensive environmental, social and economic baseline to inform the development of an Ayeyarwady Basin Master Plan (BMP). In addition, datasets collected through the assessment have been standardised and incorporated into a Water Information System for Data Management (WISDM) that forms the basis of a Decision Support System (DSS) for the basin.

Australia’s support for the Ayeyarwady SOBA has helped set the foundation for integrated, inclusive and informed river basin planning and is a significant step in the development of an Ayeyarwady River Decision Support System (DSS) and Basin Master Plan (BMP). Once completed, the DSS and BMP will enhance water management and more equitable, efficient and environmentally sustainable water use for 60% of Myanmar’s landmass and 70% of its population (37.7M people).

Program Lead