Myanmar to inspect all 235 dams after spillway collapse in August

Myanmar to inspect all 235 dams after spillway collapse in August

A bridge is seen after a dam breach flooded the area in Swar township
A bridge is seen after a dam breach flooded the area in Swar township, Myanmar, August 29, 2018, in this still image from video obtained from social media. ASHIN KAW WIDA/via REUTERS

MYANMAR: Myanmar has set up a special task force to inspect all 235 dams in the country, after a spillway collapse in August flooded as many as 85 villages.

In an exclusive interview, an official from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation told Channel NewsAsia that the special task force was appointed in mid-September. 

The team, which includes geology, hydrology and mechanical experts, will inspect up to four large dams every day, to ensure they are safe. 

The move comes after the spillway - a structure that facilitates water flow from the dam - of the Swa Chaung dam in Bago, central Myanmar collapsed in August, leaving 85 villages submerged in flood water and part of a major highway temporarily closed. More than 63,000 villagers were forced to flee their homes.

Myanmar dam breach
The Yangon-Mandalay highway bridge was shut down after water breached the Swar dam in central Myanmar on Wednesday (Aug 29). (Photo: Facebook/Myanmar Fire Services Department)

The ministry's Irrigation and Water Utilization Management Department's deputy director general Zaw Lwin Tun said the August Swa Chaung dam spillway collapse in Bago was due to "progressive failure".

He added that the impact of the collapse was big.

"Our people are afraid of failure of the dams because of the spillway damage," Zaw said.

In June, the Myanmar Times reported that another dam spillway had collapsed in Magwe region, resulting in school closures and the flooding of several villages. 

Zaw added that although Myanmar's dams are designed to withstand the impact of earthquakes and are inspected at least once a month, the newly set up task force will carry out an overall review of the country's dam safety as an additional measure.

Myanmar dam breach flood
People are evacuated after flooding in Swar township, Myanmar. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)

"They are inspecting all of the dams. That's not a routine task," Zaw said.

"This is a special task starting from middle of last month. We have 235 dams. So these four teams are carrying out inspection work. Based on their findings, their investigation results, we intend to allocate, prioritise some budget to the maintenance and safety of our dams," he said.

Zaw did not specify a deadline for the task force.

"Sometimes we can have up to four dams inspected in a day," he said. "Some dams, if they're smaller, we can go up till six a day."

Source: CNA/na(aj)

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