Myanmar’s rivers are a key national resource. They provide irrigation, hydropower, water supplies for cities and industries, and navigation and transport routes. They are also important ecosystems, supporting productive fisheries both inland and in the deltas, and underpinning the livelihoods of Myanmar communities.
As Myanmar develops, aquatic ecosystems are under pressure from changes to the river systems as a result of settlement, extraction of water, dams and weirs, land use change along the rivers and in the catchments, habitat loss and pollution. These changes may foster economic growth, but they will also impact on the ecosystem services and products provided by rivers.
A system is ‘healthy’ when its character, biodiversity and functions are sustained over time. An ‘unhealthy’ system is one where such a balance does not exist.
The Myanmar Healthy Rivers Initiative
The Myanmar Healthy Rivers Initiative is being implemented from 2015 – 2017 in close partnership with the Watershed Division of the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Forestry (MOECAF) and in collaboration with a number of universities, community and civil-society organisations. As a pilot, the MRHI will demonstrate the utility of River Health Reporting in informed and inclusive decision making in Myanmar’s river basins and that the success of the MRHI can be upscaled in the future.
The MRHI aims to answer the questions:
- What ecosystem services provided by rivers are valued by communities and sectors?
- How is the health of the river, and the provision of these services, changing over time?
The project will use a range of techniques – from analysis of satellite imagery to community based monitoring – to tailor a framework suitable for the Myanmar context where conventional river monitoring is rarely available.
The IWMI-led Healthy Rivers Salween project and the ICEM-led Healthy Rivers Ayeyearwady projects have been developed in close collaboration. Both projects will be implemented with the same national partners: the Myanmar Institute for Integrated Development (MIID) and Ecosystem Conservation and Community Development Initiative (ECCDI).