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May 25, 2020

From Yangon University to the Ayeyarwady River


Dr. Thazin Lwin
Yangon University of Distance Education


Chemistry doctorate degree holders will be honoured by the Department of Chemistry of the University of Yangon on 26 November in conjunction with a ceremony to donate doctoral regalia and insignia to the department.
The invitation card brought back memories of when I wrote a thesis and a research programme about the water quality of the Ayeyarwady River in 1998 and defended it in front of five German professors for my doctoral degree.
Thoughts about our country’s mighty river come to mind again at a time when the river’s water quality is reaching dangerous levels.
My thesis involved enormous experimental work. Several modern analytical techniques were used for the analysis and investigation of the water and soil.
I suggested in my thesis, titled “Assessment of the Water Quality from Some Selected Regions of the Ayeyarwady River” about 20 years ago that parts of the Ayeyarwady River during certain seasons of the year were so polluted and beyond EPA standards that the water of the main river of Myanmar flowing across many parts of the country should not be used as potable water or for bathing.
I made efforts for the extensive piece of work so that it could be the basis for a regular intensive surveillance of the water quality of the Ayeyawady River and other rivers in Myanmar in the future.

The Ayeyarwady River which flows from north to south of Myanmar passing through parts of the country is also reliable for water transportation. Photo: Aung Thant Khaing

In times of easily accessible global information, it is quite hopeful to realise how young scientists have an interest to investigate environmental problems, even in situations that are not ideal, with respect to the possible available investigation and analytical facilities.
In most cases, the land, air, rivers, the very ecosystem of Myanmar, could have been considered “safe and clean” about 20 years ago. However, due to the impact of increased population as well as small-scale industrialisation, particularly along the big rivers, the water bodies are going to suffer a pollution stress.
This dissertation probes into the environmental conditions of the water bodies (with a stretch of 328 km) from Bagan to Shwedaung. This dissertation is a milestone and reflects one of the environmental problems which we face today, as we could not prevent man-made activities.
Myanmar’s socio-economic activities, urbanisation, industrial operations and agricultural production have increased rapidly in recent years. With the increase of socio-economic development and climate change impacts, there is an increasing threat on the quantity and quality of water resources.
In Myanmar, some of the drinking water still comes from unimproved sources, including rivers.
The use of chemical fertilizer in agriculture, mining activities in catchment area, wastewater effluents from industries and communities and other development activities generate pollutants of a different nature. Therefore, water quality monitoring is of utmost importance.
To provide basic information, action is needed at all management levels.
The need for comprehensive and accurate assessments of trends in water quality has been recognised. For such an assessment, reliable monitoring data are essential.
The national-level Water Resource Committee of the Union Government has alerted ministries to speed up the cooperation and coordination for water management of the country.

One MP alleging last year that water from the Ayeyarwady River is dangerous for the people to use and it would damage their health. Photo: Aung Thant Khaing

The committee’s future works include rainwater storage, drafting water laws, measures for reducing floods and water scarcity, conservation of the environment and forests in watershed areas and seeking ways for fighting pollution in the rivers.
Today is the time for the ministries concerned and the people including experts to work together for fighting pollution of the Ayeyarwady River.
In fact, ministries concerned are obliged to assist the national-level Water Resource Committee in its future works for reducing floods, drafting a water bill, and controlling water pollution.
The findings of about 20 years ago would be a legacy to those who are going to work on the environmental problems.

(Dr. Thazin Lwin is a PhD degree holder in Chemistry from Yangon University. She is currently serving as the Professor & Head of the Department of Chemistry of the Yangon University of Distance Education-YUDE)


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