On 15 September a DRR-Team counting 4 Dutch experts arrived in Myanmar, after DRR-Team has been selected at the beginning of this month. Their objective: a scoping mission related to the floods that hit Myanmar in Mid-August. These floods led to more than 110.000 displaced persons, and more than 70 people were killed in a landslide.
The DRR-Team consists of the following Dutch experts:
1) Marco Hartman (DRR-Team Leader)
2) Tanya Huizer (Water Governance expert)
3) Kees Sloff (Morphological expert)
4) Carolien Wegman (Advisor Rivers, Coast & Delta’s)
5) Alex Hooijer (Hydrological expert)
The scoping mission focuses on the Bilin and Lower Thanlwin river Catchment and aims to formulate an advice for the short and long term to prevent flooding and landslides and draw up recommendations on how to prepare for disasters.
We hear from DRR-Team expert Carolien Wegman who writes down her first findings in the field.
Day 0 – Sunday 15th of September
“On Sunday the whole DRR-Team including Marco Hartman, Kees Sloff, Alex Hooijer and Carolien Wegman arrived on the same flight from Bangkok to Yangon. Except for Tanya Huizer, who was already in Myanmar. After an hour of relaxation and showering, we met Aung Myint Oo (Dutch Embassy) and Tanya for dinner. At 8 pm we had a meeting with the WorldBank in which they explained their findings of a ‘Quick assessment of the economic impact of the floods of 2019’. We also discussed the possibilities whether recommendations from of our study could be financed by the WorldBank and/or DWIR* (find a list of abbreviations below).”
Day 1 – Monday 16th of September
“On Monday we had a very early rise, because we had to leave the hotel in Yangon at 6:15 am. We met up with the DWIR representatives along the way and travelled together to Mon State. We visited the Bilin River Catchment area and at several sites were informed about the impact and water levels of the 2018 and 2019 floods. In Bilin we had a meeting with the DWIR-representatives, the Deputy Township Officer and an assistant observer of DMH. They told us more about the floods of 2018 and 2019 and the disaster management scheme they have since last year. That is twofold including a ‘preparation program’ and a ‘response program’. After the meeting we visited some more sites in the Bilin Township where we also talked to residents and their evacuation procedure. Afterwards, we travelled to Hpa-An on the road that was flooded in 2018. Around 6 pm we arrived at ThanLwin Paradise hotel, just in time to witness the sunset over the river.”
Day 2 – Tuesday 17th of September
“We started the day with a meeting at Kayin State Regional Government Office. We met shortly with HE U Saw Pyi Thar, Minister for Environmental Conservation, Forest, Mine and Road Transport for the Kayin State. We asked him how the DRR-Team can support him and he introduced us to the DMH and DWIR officials for more detailed discussions on the system and measures being taken. After this, we met with many representatives of different entities within the government (GAD, DWIR, DMH, IWUMD and DDM). They gave us some insight in the water management system of Hpa-An and the problems they face. We heard a lot about measurements being taken (for dredging purposes) and specific water levels, inundation heights and shelters being built.
However, to get an overall view about the subject remains a challenge. Nonetheless, we got insight in the functioning of different public entities and their communication. After the meeting we continued with field visits in the area around Hpa-An and on the way to Mawlamyine we observed some more flooding. This appeared to occur every year, last year even blocking the main road for almost two months! In 2019 it was blocked for almost a week.”
Day 3 – Wednesday 18th of September
“We woke up in Mawlamyine and went first on an official meeting with the Chief Minister U Tun Min Aung of the Mon State Government. He really took the time for us and knew a lot about water-related issues in his state. Afterwards we had two meetings in both the Mawlamyine and the Kyaikmayaw township office meeting with the officials from the different entities (DWIR, DMH, IWUMD, DDM). We saw some differences with the previous two visited regions. For example, people do not always follow instructions from the government when it comes to evacuation. They are more self-supporting. They have their own boat and typically a two story house so they can stay high and dry during a flood. They are quite used to it, as it happens every year, though 2019 was extreme high and long. The government focusses on disaster response and not so much on disaster prevention. After the meetings we had three more site visits in the region in which we saw the houses, the boats and met some residents.
On Thursday the team will split: some of us will wake up very early and visit Ye Town, almost 200 kilometers further South, while other team members stay in Mawlamyine for more in depth discussions with the different stakeholders on their activities.”
Day 4 – Thursday 19thof September
“On the fourth day of the mission the team split up in two groups. Tanya, Marco and Carolien went to Ye Township to meet the officials there and visit some sights. Alex, Kees and Phuu Thit (Myanmarese colleague of Tanya) stayed in Mawlamyine to have one-on-one conversations with the different departments of Mawlamyine to dive deeper in organizational issues.
The team going to Ye left very early as Ye Town is about 200 km further South. First we met at the GAD office with the Township officials. Ye faces flooding every year, but people can cope with that. In 2019 however, the flooding circumstances were severe. For the first time ever they had to leave their house as the water rose up to 5 meters (twice as high as the gauge on the photo). The water level rose fast during the night, there was no electricity available and communication was impossible. About 7800 people were evacuated, and fortunately no casualties were mourned. After the meeting, the team visited several sites such as a rescue shelter, a bridge (which probably functions as a bottleneck and is one of the causes of the flooding), bank protection works and a low lying area from where people were evacuated.
The other part of the team stayed in Mawlamyine and had fruitful one-on-one discussions with flood related professionals. They spoke with several parties namely DWIR, IWUMD, DMH, DDM, GAD and City Development Committee and the Road Department. Because they had more time, the team could ask more in-depth questions directly to the officials responsible. The responsibilities of different entities and the interaction between entities became a lot more clear.”
Day 5 – Friday 20thof September
“On Friday we drove back to Yangon from Mawlamyine and had some working time in the car. We also passed the landslide area in Paung and made a stop to pay our respect to the 73 people that died in this landslide. The number of casualties was this large because the road at the lower side of the hill was inundated and people were stuck in a traffic jam when the landslide occurred. By 3 pm we were in our hotel in Yangon where we continued working on the presentation for the wrap-up meeting the next day.”
Day 6 – Saturday 21thof September
“On the final day of the DRR-Team mission we went to the DWIR-office where many officials of Mon State, Kayin State and experts from DMH, irrigation Department, DWIR and the Dutch Embassy gathered to hear about our findings. Team leader Marco introduced the concept of DRR-missions and our location specific findings and recommendations. Furthermore, he introduced the principles of Flood Risk Management by using the multilayered approach of spatial planning, protection and response.
In Kayin & Mon State the disaster response is very well organized which resulted in no casualties during the floods of 2018 and 2019. In the area of spatial planning and protection improvements can be made. We recommended to start using available open data sets first to improve early warning and develop flood hazard maps. Second step is to develop more capacity within the institutes involved, and getting more measurement data from the field. The DRR-Team hopes they have contributed to a safer Kayin & Mon State by this mission and the final report that will follow and is looking forward to contribute to the next steps!”
The DRR-Team made a vlog about their visit to Myanmar, watch it here.
*List of abbreviations:
DWIR = Directorate of Water Resources and Improvement of River Systems
DMH = Department of Meteorology and Hydrology
GAD = General Administration Department
IWUMD = Irrigation and Water Utilization Management Department
DDM = Department of Disaster Management