Saturday, August 19, 2017

Water worries worsen in Taungtha

Barely at the start of summer, Mandalay Region’s Taungtha township is already dry. The lakes and wells villagers rely on have failed, and local NGOs are already distributing water.

Located in the region’s tropical zone, the township is no stranger to annual water scarcity.

But this year, probably because of the strength of the El Niño weather phenomenon, temperatures are higher than normal, and local residents fear April and May will be worse.

“The whole village relies on the monastery well for drinking water, and the water is brackish. We have to walk 2 miles [3.2 kilometres] to take a bath,” said resident U Than Myint of Nagarbo village, in the south of Taungtha township.

“We heard the development committee was going to dig a new well, but there is no new source of water. We dug one to 150 feet [45m], but the water is bitter. We’ve had to widen our streets to accommodate water tankers during deliveries. We have to rely on water donations,” he said.

Many villages in the township rely on scattered wells and lakes far away from their homes. While urban dwellers are supplied from the Bon Sin dam or from vendors, remote villages are at risk, said Ko Aung Kyaw Khaing, who runs a youth group that distributes water.

“Downtown residents aren’t worried about water, but people who live in remote villages are. The situation is already serious. We expect the shortages to be worse after Thingyan because of El Niño. The wells and lakes are already dry, and new sources have to be found. The villagers don’t know what to do about getting drinking water,” he said.

New wells as much as 180m (600 feet) deep produce only undrinkable water that brings people out in a rash and makes their hair fall out if they drink or bathe in it, he said.

“Civil society organisations are working to deepen the old wells in the villages. But to assure a proper supply, we need long-term as well as short-term projects. Underground sources are failing. It used to take 50 minutes to pump 2200 gallons, but now it takes 80 minutes,” said Ko Aung Kyaw Khaing.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do without water.”