Boat sailing on a big river
The Ayeyarwady River runs over 2200 km through Myanmar and is central to agriculture and trade.

Protecting millions of lives in Myanmar from climate disasters through weather systems integration

The Ayeyarwady Integrated River Basin Management (AIRBM) Project, funded by the World Bank, seeks to improve the livelihoods of millions of poor people who are susceptible to water-related disasters in Myanmar. NIRAS is leading the way on integrating and modernizing the region’s complex meteorology and hydrology observation systems.

22. Jun 2017

Natural disasters such as cyclones, floods  and droughts often strike Myanmar and inflict significant losses. For example, Cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar’s densely-populated Ayeyarwady River Basin in 2008, accounted for upwards of 138,000 deaths.

These calamities have a disproportionate impact upon the rural poor, who reside in water-vulnerable areas and rely upon water-dependent sectors such as agriculture for their livelihood.

However, these disasters can be mitigated when the right observation and warning systems are in place. Along those lines NIRAS is leading a consortium including several hydrology and meteorology institutions in tackling the country’s challenge of integrating and modernizing the weather systems of Myanmar’s Department of Meteorology and Hydrology (DMH).

A complex situation

The project is structured around the Ayeyarwady River Basin, a richly fertile area that bisects the country north to south and covers 413,710 square kilometres, more than 60 % of Myanmar, encompassing millions of people who reside there to grow crops, especially rice.

Throughout the basin, the DMH, with the help of several countries, has installed many different weather- and water-related systems. For the most part these systems operate independently of each other, but if they were to work in a more coordinated fashion, then they would be much more effective at predicting and preventing natural disasters that can strike at a moment’s notice.

The NIRAS advantage

In order to design a modernized solution for aligning and integrating all systems, a team of experts from NIRAS, DHI, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology and the Finnish Meteorological Institute will look into the operating proceedings at DMH and provide a procurement plan and strategy for systems integration.

Based on this strategy, NIRAS will manage its implementation alongside capacity building within DMH. These efforts will have a wide range of applications such as aiding farmers in planning their crop season and coping with climate change as well as assisting authorities on river basin master planning to support the airline industry with predicting and navigating challenging weather patterns.

“The success of the Ayeyarwady Integrated River Basin Management Project is extremely important to the Government of Myanmar in its effort to lift millions of people out of poverty and to substantially ‘fast track’ the development within the Ayeyarwady River Basin. NIRAS is extremely excited to be chosen as their partner in this endeavour over the next 4 years which has already broadened our presence and options in the country,” says Claes Clifford, NIRAS International Water Director.

The World Bank predicts that the AIRBM project will benefit millions of poor people in the Ayeyarwady River basin by protecting the lives and livelihoods of those affected most by storms, floods and droughts. In fact, the project will contribute towards nearly all Sustainable  Development Goals and will strengthen the government’s ability to manage the basin’s resources and make informed decisions about future investments in developing the river.