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Irrigation Budget Halved in Agricultural Policy Change

U Win Tun

Posted on July 25, 2016

By Htoo Thant, MyanmarTimes

A shift in policy, away from building dams and toward running irrigation channels to farmland, has led to a 50 percent cut in the request for irrigation funding next year, the agriculture ministry says. U Myo Tint Tun, assistant secretary in the ministry, told The Myanmar Times on July 18 that expenditure in 2017-18 would be less than half of this year’s level.

“The expenditure for irrigation in 2016-17 is about K253 billion [US$216 million], and next year’s expenditure will be about K120 billion,” he said.

Deputy agriculture minister U Tun Win told the Pyithu Hluttaw last month that the ministry would not be building dams next year, as the existing dams and reservoirs were losing their capacity to store water used for monsoon and summer paddy. He also announced a change in the previous government’s policy of instructing farmers to grow paddy in irrigated fields, saying farmers would now be free to cultivate what they liked.

Instead of building new dams, the irrigation department will extend canals from recently built dams and reservoirs to distribute water to farmlands. “We won’t be building new dams and reservoirs, but we will be building irrigation canals and drains to take the water from new dams to the fields,” said a spokesperson on July 15.

Previous policy was to build dams and reservoirs throughout the country to promote regional development, green the environment, ensure enough paddy cultivation and safeguard access to drinking water. However, a decrease in rainfall had lowered the reserves stored in some dams and reservoirs, said U Tun Win. As a result the government was considering allowing farmers to grow crops that required less water.

Last year, irrigation-related expenditure, including emergency funding, was high. In his report to the Speaker of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, then-president U Thein Sein said he had disbursed K12.81 billion of his K100 billion emergency fund, of which the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation had spent nearly K8 billion.

The ministry spent K237.291 million supplying water to Nay Pyi Taw’s Yaysin dam, K1052.7 million on building the Kyauktalonegyi dam in Taunggyi township, Shan State, and K1200 million to dredge Nyaungyan-Minhla Lake in Thazi township. It spent K3946.945 million for dredging in silted streams and creeks and preventing erosion of river banks in Ayeyarwady Region, K830 million on flood prevention in Myitthar basin, K528.860 million on dredging Nadi Lake to prevent silting in Inle Lake, and K200.570 million on flood prevention in Ingapu town, Ayeyarwady Region.

Source: MyanmarTimes

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