In the recent weeks, Cyclone Komen has hit Myanmar, driving heavy rains into the territory, from Arakan to Kachin State. In 12 of the fourteen states and regions within the country currently know large floods. Hundreds of thousands of inhabitants are forced to move, their houses drowned and their belonging lost.
Official Natural Disaster
After some days with no much news coming from the affected areas, Myanmar population realised the importance of the flooding. The Ministry of Information declared the Rakhine State, Chin State, Magway state as well as Sagaing division as disaster areas. More recently, Mandalay international Airport has been designated as the primary hub to deliver aid to the most damaged region while Nay Pyi Taw airport will be the second hub for aid distribution. CSOs are calling the government for putting at disposal army helicopters in order to bring the collected aid as fast as possible. Arakan State and Sagaing division appear to be the most affected area; a lot of people had to run away from their homes and seek refuge in temples or in the neighbourhood regions. A group of 48 people have been stuck in their school because of the sudden floods. Pictures usually taken from airplanes show the importance of the floods.
Myanmar population got mobilized quickly, mostly through social media, to offer aid to the areas damaged by floods. In Yangon, thousands of young gather regularly along the streets and at traffic lights, offering street shows and collecting money from the drivers. Social movements, such as “88 Generation”, collect donations and send money, food, water, and clothes in order to help the displaced people. Even larger private groups are reacting, such as KBZ Bank, which has been donating money, and using its own fleet to deliver aid and materials.
Of course, as Myanmar population realizes it, this wave of solidarity needs to be coordinated. Some mismanagement is already spotted in the aid delivery. The logistical issue is very important in this situation. Now that airports have been designated in Mandalay as primary hub and that the government will centralize from here the repartition of the aid, some questions have been raised. The government urgently needs to form a coordination team in order to ensure the efficiency of the efforts that Myanmar citizens are doing, through their donation to civil society organisations. The Government has officially asked for international aid and support and has admitted that the weak of the authorities response and capacity has slowed the victim rescue. Hopefully, everyone would be able to work together with good coordination and good will to save and help victims.
Climate Change: a reality that needs to be faced in Myanmar
After Nargis in 2008, the current floods are the worst the country has ever known. It is the second time Myanmar is being hit that hard by climatic events. With more than 500,000 acres of agricultural land damaged, according to the ministry of agriculture, the consequences are going to be heavy for the national rice market. In the flooded area, people are already lacking food. Diseases will spread quickly if nothing is done in terms of health care and sanitation.
Why such floods? If rains have been heavier than usual, the main causes of the flood are linked with human activities:
– Deforestation is one of the main factors. In the past years, the deforestation rate in Myanmar has been very high. Acres of forests are being cut down, legally and illegally, in order to provide wood as raw material for the economy or to expand agricultural lands. No proper monitoring has been done and the government do not seem to consider the real importance of this issue.
– Agriculture deteriorates the soils, especially when it is linked with intensive agricultural methods using pesticides and herbicides. The soils are losing fertility and their capacity to hold water. As a consequence, the water stays at the surface longer in flooded area, instead of being swallowed through the ground. Sustainable farming practices need to be developed in Myanmar as a way to take care of the environment, to offer products that are healthy for the people, and overall to help farmers mitigate climate change effects.
– The country lacks a Disaster Risk Management Plan and a Climate Change Mitigation Plan, even while the flooded areas regularly know some light floods. Having such plans would help the country tackle climate change issues and consequences.
Climate change is going to affect Myanmar even more in the future. According to many studies, Myanmar is one of the most threatened countries in the world by huge climatic events. These floods have nothing in common with what happen before neither did Nargis. Climate change tackling must be a priority; Climate change tackling has to be a priority.
Myanmar can develop its economy, alleviate poverty and tackle climate change at the same time. We can even say that this is considering all these elements that Myanmar will manage to propose a successful model that will be replicable in so many other countries.
Of course, time is at the emergency. And Green Lotus heart goes straight to the victims of the floods. Green Lotus really thanks CSOs and youth commitment that are nowadays walking in the streets to collect donation. And while our body is acting, we should make our head thinking and already think about the aftermath.
Green Lotus Team