South Yangon

This past week I got a chance to visit two townships in South Yangon, Dala and Kawhmu. Dala is, from what I have been told by many individuals, the area in Yangon that suffers the worst water crisis. Drinking water is highly needed in those areas in the dry season.

The differences between downtown Yangon and the south, the other side of Yangon river, strike me when I first arrived there. While the city of Yangon is developing in an incredibly fast pace, permanent buildings are rare to be seen on the other side of the river. It seems almost like I was back in the dry zone again, with, of course, more green space and rain.

There are two ways to cross Yangon river; by ferries or by bridge. Taking ferries seems to be a more promising and faster way. It takes around 15 minutes to cross the river with only 1500 Kyat (around 1.5 USD) per car and 100 Kyat (around 10 cents) per person. Though, it took us quite a while to get there and come back since the transportation ferries only come every two hours.

It is a shame to see the amount of waste in Yangon river. Yet, children are still having fun swimming, and men are still showering and get cleaned (?). The water is clearly not suitable for drinking. The mixture of sea and fresh water here is only suitable for some domestic uses such as washing and bathing.


Yangon River


Dala by the river side

Dala by the river side

My first impression of Dala is that everything is lively and colorful. There are people with very colorful clothes and umbrellas walking and biking everywhere. There are some rain storage ponds full of lotus (to prevent water evaporation in the dry season), there are some areas with drainage problem, but so far there is never a flooding problem in this area.



A JICA sponsored storage pond built by the NEPS

A JICA sponsored storage pond built by the NEPS

Kawhmu, however, is quite different. It takes another hour on a bumpy and muddy road to get there. The road is very dangerous for  locals, whose main vehicles are motorbikes. Fortunately, the road is being improved. There is an immediate plan, funded by JICA, to build the road after the rainy season starting in October. This will be a good livelihood improvement for the people living in these areas.


lotus rain-storage pond, Kawhmu  



Fence protecting animals and people to get water directly from the Pond, Kawhmu

Insufficient drinking water in the dry season is the main problem in South Yangon. People would store as much rain water as possible in the rainy season, with containers, tanks, storage ponds, and they would use the water in the dry season. Tube well is not an option here because of underground water salinity problem. In certain years (which is mostly every year now), when the rain is late, people would suffer. Starting from April and May, right before the rainy season, is when water is running out. Many rely on donated water, many, working in Yangon city, have to carry water back home after work.

Donation is not enough and long-term solution is needed here in South Yangon.


Acknowledgement: I am grateful for the National Engineering and Planning Services (NEPS) for making this filed visit happened. This “private company but doing works like nearly non-profit style” focuses their works on water facilities planning services and have built storage ponds in South Yangon area. I am also grateful for JICA, all the donors, and the locals who took time sharing their stories with me.

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