Friday, August 18, 2017

In Magwe, fields lie empty as Giri leaves its mark

 

A resident of Pauk township carries water past rubble left by Cyclone Giri. Photo: Sandar LwinA resident of Pauk township carries water past rubble left by Cyclone Giri. Photo: Sandar Lwin

Residents of townships in central Myanmar affected by Cyclone Giri say they are struggling to replace their crops because of extensive damage to farmland.

While Giri, which made landfall on October 21, inflicted most damage on Rakhine State, the cyclone traced a path over western Magwe Region before petering out near Bagan, on the east bank of the Ayeyarwady, the following morning.

At least four people were killed and many homes destroyed by flash flooding in Magwe’s Pauk township but the extent of damage to areas outside of Rakhine State remains unclear.

Perhaps most damaging has been the cyclone’s effect on agriculture. Swollen waterways flooded farmland, depositing a thick layer of sand. When The Myanmar Times visited Pauk earlier this month, residents said that while they received material support following the cyclone they expected to face food shortages in the longer term.

“Floods not only destroyed our crops, farm animals, farm equipment and homes but also deposited 3 feet [90 centimetres] of sand on the land, making it unusable,” said Ma Soe Soe Lwin from Tazuu village, where 35 of 247 homes disappeared completely in the flash flooding and another 48 were damaged by the cyclone.

“The flood occurred here about 7am and we had time to move to a safe place. No one died but I have heard of casualties in other areas,” she said. “It’s pretty clear though that there will be food shortages for us this year.”

According to the Myanmar Red Cross Society’s initial assessment data released on October 26, Giri affected several townships outside of Rakhine State, including Salin, Seikphyu, Pauk, Pakokku, Gangaw and Nyaung Oo.

“Almost all farmland along the Yaw stream, which begins in Kyauk Htu and [enters the Ayeyarwady River at] Seikphyu township, has been inundated with sand. In some places, the sand is 3 feet high. Just in two or three villages in this area we lost about 700 acres of farmland,” said U Myint Oo, head of the Peace and Development Council in Pauk’s Boetmal village.

“The sand deposit is about 2 feet [60cm] high on my farmland and all canals were destroyed. We can’t grow any crops at the moment,” said farmer Daw Myint Khin from Boetmal village. “We need machinery to help us clear the land so we can farm again.”

However, locals expressed their gratitude for emergency supplies distributed by government and non-government groups and local volunteers in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

“The disaster investigators,” said the abbot of Chaunnar village monastery, referring to NGO workers, “came and asked how much we lost and gave us some household equipment. So residents are able to get by for the time being but until we can start farming again it will be difficult.”

U Tin Winn, a farmer from Chaunnar, said after the swollen Yaw stream burst its banks, the village was 5 feet (1.5 metres) under water. About 40 homes were completely destroyed.

“We received much assistance, including K60,000 for each destroyed house and K50,000 for each damaged house. Household goods were distributed and we were also given many emergency meals. But we want to be able to start farming again,” said U Myint Oo.

Ma Soe Soe Lwin said she would try her luck cultivating alternative crops for the time being.

“We got assistance of half a basket of chickpea seeds and one basket of peanut capsules for seed.”