Thinking Citizen Blog — the Irrawaddy (Burma) — from the Himalayas to the Andaman Sea

Thinking Citizen Blog — Wednesday is Climate Change, the Environment, and Sustainability Day

Today’s Topic — Great Rivers of the World XV: the Irrawaddy (Burma) — from the Himalayas to the Andaman Sea

Last week, the Pearl River Delta of China. The week before the Mekong. This week, the Irrawaddy, a river lined with some of the most enthralling sites on the planet earth. The central artery of the Burmese economy, the Irrawaddy is also the site of a vast Chinese hydroelectric dam project which threatens the ecology of the river. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

THE IRRAWADDY — Burma — from Himalayan glaciers to the Andaman Sea

1. Ultimate source of the river: the Himalayan glaciers of Eastern Tibet. Further south formed by the merger of the Mali and the N’mai rivers.

2. The river bisects Burma and its delta has nine arms as it feeds into the Andaman Sea.

3. The Irrawaddy Delta is one of the world’s greatest rice-producing regions.

PAGAN — 3822 temples and pagodas remain from the Golden Age (9th to 13th centuries AD)

1. That would be down from about 10,000 temples at the peak of the Kingdom of Pagan.

2. The Pagan kingdom was a casualty of the Mongol Invasions of the 13th century and was succeeded by short-lived Myinsaing Kingdom (1297–1313), and then the Ava (1364–1555).

3. Before Pagan were the city-states of Pyu (2nd century BC to 9th century), founded by migrants from the north.

NB: The last capital of Burma before the British conquest was Mandalay, which remains the commercial and educational hub of Upper Burma. The British made Rangoon (now Yangon) the British capital. Since 2006, the capital of Burma is Naypyidaw, a planned city on the model of Brasilia (Brazil), Abuja (Nigeria), Canberra (Australia), and Washington DC (USA). But by far the largest city in Burma is Yangon (pop. 5 MM) which is 19 miles north of Andaman Sea, 390 miles south of Pagan which is 110 miles southwest of Mandalay.

THE MYITSONE DAM — massive Chinese project, suspended, could be revived

1. Most power from the seven dams would go to China. Some exported to Thailand, Bangladesh, and India. Total megawatts: 15,160. Myitsone accounts for 3600 MW.

2. Ecological consequences: loss of farmland, spawning grounds for fish, biodiversity.

3. Location near a fault line raises concerns of earthquakes and flooding.

NB: Begun under the military dictatorship in 2003, the massive hydroelectric project was suspended in 2011 by President Thein Sein. But construction could resume if Chinese lobbyists manage to persuade Aung San Su Kyi (the de facto head of state, daughter of the “Father of the Nation” (Aung Sang), and Nobel Peace Laureate, 1991).

Irrawaddy River




Myitsone Dam


Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to climate change or the environment. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to climate change that the rest of us may have missed. Your favorite chart or table perhaps…

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.