Water Wells for Dry Villages in Central Myanmar
We define sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In central Myanmar, sustainability boils down to one word: water. This part of Myanmar welcomes thousands of travelers every month to see Bagan, one of the country’s top tourist destinations and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The lifeblood of the region is the Irrawaddy River along which powerful empires rose and vanished. However, a dry zone that only receives about 34 mm of precipitation during the dry season from January to April each year surrounds the river’s dusty floodplain and Bagan’s magnificent collection of ancient temples. Every year this important agricultural area is suffering a serious drought.
Back in 1981, the Burmese government built about 300 pumping stations along the banks of the Irrawaddy River and tributaries, but this was not enough for rice cultivation. Two years later, they spent another 80 million dollar to double the area irrigated, but the sandy soil still did not support rice. Today, after decades have passed, the pumps have dumped enough silt to enrich the soil for rice, but there is still not adequate water supply.
Water is essential for human health and the environment. Currently in the dry zone around Bagan, 25% of the children suffer malnutrition, many farmers are in debt and the younger generation is trying to leave. This past March 22, World Water Day, Khiri Travel launched a modest water well building campaign in Bagan. The motto for this modest but important project is “Water for All, Dry Zone Bagan.” It reflects Khiri Travel’s sensibility for responsible tourism in Myanmar and Southeast Asia.
Each well costs USD 1700-2000 for construction, pumps and a storage basin. Khiri set a goal to build ten wells in 2015. So far, with some generous donations from individuals and tour operator partners, we have organized to build six wells and a seventh is under construction. While travelers come and go, villagers around the ancient capital of Bagan need water to combat drought, debt and malnutrition.
Our Dry Zone Safari day trip takes travelers in 4×4 jeeps to a local village in the Bagan dry zone. This off the beaten path tour organizes visits to the village market and local workshops such as blacksmiths, cooking oil presses, wooden slipper manufacturers and pottery. This tour highlights authentic Myanmar—hardworking and friendly people despite their hardship. Khiri Travel Myanmar donates USD 1 per Bagan visitor. We encourage all our travel agent customers and travelers to join us and make a donation to our water well project.
For more information about ways to enjoy Bagan’s temples, the dry zone safari and how to donate to the water well project, please [email protected]