Breaking of Swa dam indicates danger levels in safety of irrigation facilities: MP

Soe Min Htaik, Sithu
Caption: Rescue works carried out in collapse of Saw creek on August 29.(Photo-Zaw Win Chit)

Collapse of a dam spillway near Swa Creek in Bago region caused floods in 85 villages in 17 village-tracts in Yedashe Township, affecting over 63,000 people and submerging the section between milepost 161 and 166 on the Yangon-Mandalay Highway on August 29.

MP Tin Tun Naing from Seik Gyi Kha Naungto Township said breaching of Swa Creek dam indicated that although billions of public’s budget money were used under the name of maintenance and preparation costs for the dams, strength, durability and safety of irrigation facilities are in great danger.

At the Union Parliament meeting held on September 3, while discussing the matter on 2018-2019 National Project draft law and draft law on income-expenditure of Union Finance, he claimed the following.

“It is very recently that the overflowing of Swa Creek dam led to loss of lives and properties. The disastrous events happened just one day after the responsible officials checked the strength of the dam and announced through the daily newspapers that there was no need to worry over the durability or the breach of the dam. It indicates that despite using billions of Kyats under the title of maintenance and preparatory cost for irrigation facilities in entire nation, the strength, durability and safety of irrigation facilities are in great danger.

If we look at the Irrigation and Water Utilization Management Department, it requested Ks112 billion for under construction projects. Among them, there are 16 projects which will be using Ks38 billion from the Union Budget, and the majority of the submitted budget will be used for Phyu creek, Madan, Kyaikham, and Myitthar dams of which the total cost is expected to be at Ks25 billion,” said the MP.

He continued to say that a report made after scrutinizing the project as well as the project report of the Phyu creek dam, there were weaknesses in progress in expected agricultural acreage, and completion of work. It was also found that the prices of agricultural products is calculated a lot more than the current prices in the market. When looking at the profit gained, there is a huge gap in practical standard. The reports also found that unnecessary expenses were requested several times.

The maintenance cost as well as renovation charges for already built dams, many of which are funded by loans from Asia Development Bank, the World Bank and other international organizations, were demanded. The MP claimed that the government has to provide for those costs for repair and maintenance of the irrigation facilities while the full amount was already paid to ensure no weaknesses in strength and durability of those irrigation facilities. If left unchecked, it could cause the government to rack up even more debt.

Irrigation Department has asked annually Ks70 billion for maintenance charges. The MP questioned this at the Union Parliament. But,no parliamentarians answered his question. The effectiveness of these costs and charges were not answered.

He also raised the question on whether the Irrigation Department has used Union Budget effectively as anything otherwise would mean that the public is losing out on their benefits.