The power of trees and water bodies
- Some parts of the country were inundated in August and September this year on account of unusually heavy rainfall.
Floods destroyed homes, roads, bridges, and crops, particularly in Mon and Kayin states and Taninthayi Region in the southern parts of the country. The downpour also triggered a landslide, killing a large number of people in Mon State.
Floods occurred in almost every part of western Bago Region in September and destroyed some standing crops. Subsequently, rain-fed natural watercourses swelled up and, aided by the runoff from the hillsides, breached dams in some areas.
If we look at the complete picture, we will find that deluge and downhill currents wreaked the maximum havoc. Abnormal rainfall combined with forest depletion added to the force of downhill currents.
Although the government has completely banned timber extraction in the mountain ranges, trees are still being lost to the firewood and charcoal industry and slash-and-burn cultivation. As conventional agriculture tolerates the growth of weeds in plantations, it helps protect the soil to a certain degree. But the use of chemical weed-killers can wipe out weeds from their roots and make the land unproductive. Besides, rainwater, downhill currents, and turbidity currents move unchecked on barren slopes or surfaces. Consequently, sediments carried by such water currents cause heavy silting in rivers, streams, and lakes.
Silting aids floods, and if lakes and watercourses are blocked with sediment, rainwater will definitely destroy property and lives.
In this regard, we must understand the importance of water bodies, both man-made and natural, and trees in holding water and preventing the occurrence of floods.
It goes without saying that the maintenance of dams and reservoirs, the preservation of natural water bodies, and the protection of forests have become our bounden duty. But, we are still weak in discharging this duty, because, perhaps, we are still ignorant.
Large swathes of forests are being cleared, chiefly for economic reasons, and many lakes and streams are giving way to new fields, industrial zones, and real estate projects. The result is that floods are growing stronger and more acute as there are few lakes, rivers, and streams to hold or channel water away.
But, the good news is that the government has put aside K9 billion to restore or save 25 silted or vanishing watercourses. We the people must also help preserve and maintain water bodies in our localities to mitigate rain-triggered natural disasters. The most important thing for us all is to realize the power of trees and water bodies in providing protection against floods.