Governing water supply

January 29, 2023

Water supply in Rakhine State, Myanmar, has been disrupted due to armed conflict and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thing Khaing and Thi Phuoc Lai Nguyen found that stakeholders in the most conflict-affected townships of Rakhine State want to see investment in water treatment facilities, water meters, and payment collection systems.

In An Assessment of Water Supply Governance in Armed Conflict Areas of Rakhine State, Myanmar, published in the journal Water in September 2022, the authors present the findings of interviews with 160 government and non-government actors. The interviewees had participated in workshops in four townships that were highly affected by armed conflicts that took place between 2018 and 2020. Their study provides an overview of the current situation of water supply governance.

Water supply pipeline in Rakhine state, Myanmar.

Impacts of conflict

In Rakhine State, water supply is managed mainly by municipal authorities working within a decentralized system. The townships rely on surface water and rainwater collection, which is delivered to users through a combination of gravity flow and pumping.

Interviews with government and non-government actors showed that people in the four townships faced irregular and insufficient water supply. Interruptions to water supply occurred and system maintenance was disrupted. Water pricing and payment collection systems were lacking. Respondents highlighted the need for investment in water treatment facilities to ensure safe drinking water and metering systems to track water consumption.

The study shows disparity between perceptions and responses of government and non-government actors. State actors expressed satisfaction, whereas community, private sector actors, and household water users were dissatisfied with the quality and quantity of the water supply. Within group discussions, however, non-state actors adopted a neutral stance. The study thus also illustrates some of the limitations inherent in formal stakeholder interactions when the broader governance context — namely, the ongoing armed conflicts — remains unstable.

Current and future needs

The authors highlight the need for investment and maintenance of infrastructure for water collection and distribution. They also highlight the need for water treatment, monitoring and evaluation of the quality and quantity of water supply. In conclusion, they appeal to development and peace building organizations working in conflict-affected areas to promote learning and adaptation.

Reservoir in Rakhine state, Myanmar.

Source: Khaing, T., & Nguyen, T. P. L. (2022). An Assessment of Water Supply Governance in Armed Conflict Areas of Rakhine State, Myanmar. Water, 14(18), 2930, MDPI AG

All photos supplied by authors.


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