Monday, 18 November 2019

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Dala cholera risk as water shortages spread

Rangoon (Mizzima) – Residents in 23 wards of Dala Township, across the Rangoon River, are suffering under severe drinking water shortages amid a crisis that is affecting hundreds of villages across lower and central Burma. 

dalah-dried-up-water2sThe wells and ponds in almost all of these wards have run so dry that people in Rangoon, Twante, Kunchankone, Kawhmu and nearby villages are relying on drinking and utility water donated by well-wishers. 

“The water levels in our monsoon reservoirs are usually low in summer but not completely dried up like this,” a woman in Hmaw Set ward said. “They can always last until the next monsoon season. Now all these ponds and wells have run dry.” 

People usually rely on rainwater stored in ponds and reservoirs for use in the dry summer months but all such freshwater resources have run out in Dala and nearby areas. One alternative, tube wells, produce only brackish, hard water polluted with arsenic and UN healthy body WHO has warned against their use. 

Some respite has come from the many individual well-wishers and groups, who have donated drinking water, but that supply is failing to meet the huge demand. 

The people in Dala have been suffering under such shortages since mid-April, just after the traditional Thingyan water festival, but the government and departments concerned have failed to respond adequately and have let the crisis spiral out of control. Despite warnings from residents the whole town is affected. 

“The entire family has to rush when the donors come and distribute water. Sometimes we’ve missed our chance,” a Yarza Thingyan ward resident said. “In those cases we’ve had to beg forcefully for one or two bottles from our neighbours. On some days, three truckloads of water were delivered, on others, not a single truck came.” 

dalah-dried-up-water3sThe junta-sponsored Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) has distributed utility water in two water tankers owned by the Dala municipality. One tanker from the fire brigade came and departments concerned brought fuel to affected residents. However, supplies were insufficient to serve the whole town. 

“We came here today with three trucks to donate water because we heard how bad the shortages were,” a driver from Hlaing Tharyar Township’s No. 126 route bus service said. “But we didn’t realise how severe the situation was. We’re considering coming again and donating more water.” 

A doctor said people in some wards were forced to drink and use unclean water, and warned that an epidemic of cholera and other waterborne diseases was imminent.  

“Some individual well-wishers are not familiar with the area so they can only donate water in places convenient to them,” the doctor said. “So some outlying areas are not receiving water donations and have to use whatever water is available to them.”

“Some store dirty water in containers overnight for drinking [in the erroneous belief that this purifies the water]. If the situation continues for a week or 10 days, a cholera outbreak is quite likely,” he said.  

Local authorities have not harassed donors but staff from the local peace and development council, the USDA and the fire brigade have been monitoring them, witnesses said.  

“Most of the people living in our ward are poor. Sometimes letting their children wait for water donors doesn’t work [no water obtained] so they have to leave work to collect water themselves,” a woman in West Auntgyi ward said. “While standing there queuing for water they’re losing income but they must have some water for drinking. Please ask other donors to come here and donate drinking water.”


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