Where Dams Dare by Junior Win

Metaphors of the Irrawaddy

(photo above – When I visited some remarkable places near Pyay(town in the Bago Division in Burma, Pyay is positioned on the Irrawaddy River) in 2005 by boat along the river Irrawaddy, I was near one of the branches of the river. If we compare the river Irrawaddy with ‘head and body’, her branches will be ‘hands, fingers, and legs’ of the river. Its water will be described as ‘heart and soul’. See how romantic the view of the stream naturally flowing beside me is! I wish these memories altogether will be as beautiful as forever.)

The Nile is the longest river in the world flowing from Burundi to the Mediterranean Sea. It flows north to south through much of easternAfrica. Heavy rainfalls cause the Nile to flood each summer. Because of seasonal rains farther south in Africa, the Nile overflowed its banks in Egypt every year. When the floodwaters drew back, a rich black soil covered the floodplain. This natural phenomenon and its effects on the environment enabled the ancient Egyptians to develop a successful economy based on agriculture. The Nile served as a water highway for the people, a constant source of life-giving water, and the sustainer of all plants and animals.

Aswān High Dam, dam across the Nile River in southern Egypt, located near the city of Aswān in 1964. The dam impounds Lake Nasser, one of the largest reservoirs in the world. By mid-1968 construction was essentially completed. The dam was formally installed in 1971. It has a generating capacity of 2,100 megawatts of electricity.

What’s Done Is Done

Although the Aswan High Dam has provided many benefits to the area, it also has caused problems. The formation of Lake Nasser flooded many villages along the Nile in both Egypt and Sudan, forcing thousands of people to change place. Farmland along the Nile is becoming less fertile and productive because it no longer receives the fertilizing silt from the river’s floodwaters. Farmers have attempted to use chemical fertilizers instead, but these are not as effective. Although the dams now control the Nile flooding, they have severely reduced the deposits of sediment and the fertility of the valley and the delta. The environmental impact of the dams has been profound, as stretches of the river above the dams have become blocked with silt, and decreased flooding has led to increased erosion and greater salt content in the soil and water of the delta. Local communities and ancient sites in Egypt and Sudan were either submerged or relocated because of the dams.

According to the research of National Geographic Society in 1993, by the Oceanographer Daniel J.Stanley studying of focusing on the environmental conditions of the Nile River Delta, why the delta is subsiding? Modern influences including population growth, pollution, shrinking agriculture lands, irrigation canals, saltwater intrusion are destroying the Nile River Delta.

Where Dams Dare

The river Irrawaddy flows from north to south in Burma was challenged to build a big dam. It was started to plan to be 500 feet wide and 500 feet high. The Myitson Dam will be the fifteenth largest hydroelectric power station in the world if Myitson dam project was not suspended by Burma’s president U Thein Sein. If completed as planned in 2017, the
people live around the river Irrawaddy would face same problems as the environmental conditions of the Nile river delta. If the suspension means stopping construction, it will entirely comfort our worries about the delta dam.


The Irrawaddy is the longest river in Burma and its waters make farming possible for the people of hot, dry places around the river. It gives people transportation, fishing, swimming, agricultures and natural resources. It gives artists pleasure and we can dream our old memories. I had posted essays and articles about the river Irrawaddy while I heard the plan of the river Irrawaddy dam. I admit that I did not have complete knowledge as the geographic specialists of the environmental conditions or what happened if the Irrawaddy Delta imperiled. But I could wish my beautiful memories to be bound each generation to each generation by natural faithfulness.