Friday, August 18, 2017

Landslide lake fears spark public campaign

Fearing further flood damage in the next rainy season, a group of civil society organisations in Kalay, Sagaing Region, is trying to jump-start government action to deal with a giant natural reservoir formed by a landslide. The activists fear that unless something is done to drain the 6.4-hectare (16-acre) reservoir, the city will again be engulfed by floodwaters descending from the hills.

Water pools behind a landslide in Tonzang township, Chin State.SuppliedWater pools behind a landslide in Tonzang township, Chin State.Supplied

Government experts have already examined the reservoir in Tonzang township, Chin State. But since that survey in November, little appears to have been done, local residents say.

The Upper Chindwin Youth Network, the 8888 Action Group and the 8888 Nyein Pwint group have now joined forces to avert the threat they say hangs over the Kalay-Kabaw valley townships of Kalay, Tamu, Kalaywa and Mingin in Sagaing Region and Chin State.

“We started with a workshop to show the threat posed to the public. Then we will ask to meet the government to see what more they can do about it,” said Ko Kyaw Thet Win of the Upper Chindwin Youth Network.

The workshop displayed photos of last August’s flood damage taken by the Upper Chindwin Youth Network and inland fishermen. “We’re still struggling to overcome the effects of the last flooding, and we’re worried it will be repeated this year,” he added.

The natural reservoir is about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Yazagyo Dam in Sagaing Region’s Kalay township, and poses no direct danger if the earthen dam breaks, irrigation officials have said. However, government officials meeting last November agreed that heavy rain could bring flooding unless the excess water was first drained off.

There are three villages, each with 100 households, near the natural reservoir.

“We will stage a street theatre event this month in Kalay, with people smearing mud on themselves to remind people of the danger, and then we want to meet with the ministries. This is an emergency because the water is already seeping out,” U Aye Myint from the 8888 Action Group told The Myanmar Times.

He added that the group would release a CD about the reservoir to help publicise the threat. U Tun Tun of the 8888 Nyein Pwint group said he wanted more investigation on where the water from the reservoir was going, and safe ways of diverting it.

The Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry says it has instructed relevant ministries and local authorities, as well as civil society organisations, to carry out further investigations of the risks posed by the new lake.