According to the report issued by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in the first week of September, the extraction of sand from rivers for construction industries has adverse impacts.
More importantly for the Ayeyarwady River, the construction sector is a driver for the extraction of sand. Coarse sand and gravel is typically targeted for extraction as those types were the most desirable construction materials..
Approximately 10 million tonnes of gravel and sand are reportedly extracted from Ayeyarwady River sites for construction annually. This is believed to be a gross underestimate of the total sand extraction from the Ayeyarwady River. Since the majority of construction and development is taking place in the basin, it is safe to assume the majority of the buildings, roads and bridges being built are also using sand from the river. Given the volumes of materials recorded during the survey, the level of development in Myanmar, and the large volumes of sand and gravel required for construction, road building and dam building, it is highly likely that continued risks such as bank erosion and the increasing vulnerability of a sinking delta will continue, according to the report.
However, the construction sector has important linkages with other sectors of the economy. For instance, approximately 30% of outstanding credit from the banking sector is within the construction and real estate industries. Therefore, not only is employment affected as a result of a slowing or uncertain construction sector, but the banking sector also shares these risks too. Construction accounts for around 5.2% of GDP or around 18% of industrial output. Even with this small economic contribution (directly), the sector has devastating impacts on the river, the report says.
Salai Thura Zaw, Water Programme Officer from the WWF (Myanmar) said: “Construction industries mainly extract sand and gravel from Ayeyarwady River. They are doing it with licenses issued by Water Resources and Rivers and Creek Conservation Committee under the ministry. But the committee is unable to check the situations on the ground.”