Large river in mountain landscape
The Ayeyarwady River runs over 2200 km through Myanmar and is central to agriculture and trade.

Hydrometeorology in Myanmar

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

The Ayeyarwady Integrated River Basin Management (AIRBM) Project, initiated 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 hydrometeorology systems.

Natural disasters such as cyclones, floods and droughts often strike Myanmar, inflicting 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 has teamed up with several hydrology and meteorology institutes in tackling the World Bank’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 over 400,000 square kilometres, encompassing millions of people who reside there to grow crops, especially rice.

Throughout the basin, the DMH, with the help of multiple 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 twelve experts from NIRAS, the Danish Hydrological Institute, 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 the Myanmar government. These efforts will have a wide range of applications, from aiding farmers in coping with climate change to assisting the airline industry with predicting and navigating challenging weather patterns.

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. Moreover, the project will strengthen the government’s ability to manage the basin’s resources and to make informed decisions about future investments in developing the river.