It has been for centuries that every country in the world has adopted the plans competitively and ardently for its development. The development plans mainly consist of transport and communications, electricity, oil and gas, economics and modern armament. Transports, therefore, becomes an important matter. Since the last century, Europe and USA had constructed many over-bridges across rivers and creeks.

Similarly, in Myanmar, a developing country, such over-bridges were, in the past decades, constructed, which being much important in her transportation sector.

The River Irrawaddy, existing between Pago Mountain Ranges (Middle Ranges) and Rakhine Mountains Ranges (Western Ranges), is the backbone of our country.

Across the Irrawaddy the largest in Myanmar, were constructed a considerable number of over-bridges, and because considered in general that the bridges contribute the benefits as transportation and flow of goods because easier and faster.

However, it is highly interesting what sort of things have occurred behind the scene of those bridges.

There is a research organization named Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) found that, because of the bridge-construction, the natural formation of rivers, though at the outset were became deformed in the way of Domino Effect.

The organization is doing research mainly on the cause how that would effect the socio-economic life, cultural and health conditions of the people due to the ruining of natural environment. Among those, cause included the dangerous consequences that would occur because of the over-bridge constructions.

Through hits through research, EIA found that, because of the bridges and spillways construction, the river’s natural way of silting system had already changed. In its finding expressed are that, due to the changes, ‘Domino Effects’ occurred, resulting in the rise of the river’s bed, water currents’ speed getting abnormal, drastic changing of currents, depositing of sand, erosion of river-banks, etc.

Meanwhile, the further impact that would happen is the ruining of ecology, leading to floods. “The floods would occur not because of the rise of the water volume, but because of the rise of riverbed’s level causing to have her valley flooded,” said EIA report.

Even in the Magwe Region, there are four bridges already constructed, and another one under construction. “In the same region, the distance between Pakokku Bridge and Chauk Bridge is 48 miles, Chauk Bridge and Magwe Bridge 71 miles, Magwe Bridge and Ma0lun Bridge 21 miles. And Ma-lun Bridge and the new one under construction, connecting Aung Lan and Thayet, 45 miles,” said U Ko Ko Aung, Assistance Director of Magwe Region Rivers and Creeks Development Department to us.

It is the clear picture showing the not too far range of distance between each and each bridges across the River Irrawaddy. One Ko Po Htay, the fishery business owner of Pakokku commented, “There was not much and deposited in the river before the bridge constructions. But after the constructions, sand deposited too much.”

Some lovcal folks stated, “After the Pakokku Bridge was completed, Htan-gon, Thein-gon, Mayo-gon, Shar-taw, Hta-naung-gon villeges situated down-stream the river had to face erosion of their village land. And at last some of them had to move to the inner area.”

“There arose 28 cases of erosion within a period of two months, October and November, 2020 in Magwe Region, and some of the effected villagers had to shift to other lands. A total of 254 house-holds were reallocated,” said U Soe Myint, Regional Head of Magwe Region Natural Disaster Protection and Administration Department.

“Similarly, during the 5 year period of NLD Government, there arose 1865 natural disasters up to December, 2020 in Magwe Region, and among which included river-banks erosions due to the changes of watercourse,” stated in the statistical report of the Department.

This being so, the findings as surveyed and researched by EIA, predicting the ‘Domino Effect’ must be carefully taken into consideration.

Behind the Scene of the Over-bridges Across Rivers

“Bridges might be needed for the Regional Development, but what I would like to connect is the techniques and technology used in their construction. The techniques, if they are century-old and out of date, their users should not be highly proud of them. Still, they are using the method of piling in the river, setting beams, building up-going roads, etc., and boasting themselves as ‘no twos’. Now is not the time of such boastings, and instead, they should approach with the study of the river’s nature and form, which would bring for the more benefits than damages…” opined  U Mg Mg Oo of an allied organization for natural environment conservation.

He continued his opinion that even if bridges are to be constructed for regional development, piling method must not be used for their construction as it leads to the deformation of the river and bridges should be substituted.

EIA expressed its research findings that the river’s watercourse had changed due to the existence of the bridges, resulting in disasters of riverbank erosion. Similarly, sand deposits would occur more and more because of abnormal silting, and such deposits would happen more in the river’s lower reaches, it stated. At the same time, abnormal silting have the riverbed’s level risen.

“Even in the time of high tide in the river, cargo boats (CB) cannot carry cargoes up to its draught of 9 feet or so. It’s because of the riverbed’s rising up due to abnormal silting of sand and mud,” said U Soe Maung, a maritime trader. He continued, “Actually, some large CBs are capable of carrying up to 300,000 gallons of diesel oil in its hull while other cargo can be boarded on its deck, as its draught being 8 feet.” He also explained to us that they than were able to move only with the load of total cargo with 4 feet draught, and so the flow of goods dwindled. He reasoned that the flow of goods from place to place by boat is more important than land transportation since cargo boat’s capacity of carrying goods are much more higher than that of land-carriage.

EIA has already pointed out that the construction of bridges across rivers made the rivers’ water courses changed, and those changes resulted in bad consequences.

Behind the Scene of the Over-bridges Across Rivers

“Because of the changing of water courses, riverbank erosion, river course curving etc. would happen and river courses might become longer, and as a result of such happenings, travelling by boat or flow of goods would become harder,” commented U Zaw Win, Director of Magwe Region Rivers and Creeks Development Department. He pointed out, “Changing of river course means water flow erodes away the earth of the side of its bank and there happen sand and earth deposits, resulting in the rise of riverbed level leading to occur floods.”

What he pointed out dovetailed with the ‘Domino Effect Theory’ meaning that if one start to get ruined, then ruining of others would come one after another.

“During a short period of last 10 years, when a large boat, after having sailed up-stream and unloaded the cargoes it carried at some ports, sailed down-stream back, it would witness the river course changes, and it’s harder to go in one way and come back another!” said U Win Swe Oo, a vessel agent along Irrawaddy.

U Myint Naing, a veteran fisher of Magwe related what he ehad recorded, “After the Irrawaddy Bridge (Magwe) was commissioned in 2002, there appeared many lands in the river, deposited with sand, mud and earth in the nearby area, and consequently the river course got narrowed.”

He continued, “Before the bridge’s construction, there were no islands in the river, and later they appeared one by one, when the river course being normal; in the past, one time of fishing net casting usually brought more than 100 viss of fish, but now it would do not more than 20 or 30 viss.”

What U Myint Naing pointed out really reflects the finding of the natural environment conservation association that the ecological condition of the aquatic creatures began to be badly effected since the bridges appeared. Bridges constructions were made for the be Herment of transportation. Yet, water flowing courses were not precisely calculated, and consequently the inhabitant’s socio-economic lives were badly effected," said U Mg Mg, the leader of an allied organization of Natural Environment conservation team.

He pointed out, "When posts are erected by means of piling technique, in both upper reaches and lower reaches of the river appeared islands of sand and earth. The water course under bridges changed, and the villages, cultivable lands, and dwelling houses down-stream those bridges too much since no precise calculation and prediction were made."

Because of watercourse changes, the riverbank erosions occurred, and the inhabitants of the area lost their cultivable land plots and the homes.

The people of Magwe Region had to face 14 times of erosion in 2015-2016, the value of loss amounts ti MMK- 3.352 millions.

However, there happened 124 cases of riverbank erosions with the value of MMK- 93.99 million and the statistics were expressed in the records of Magwe Region Disaster Administration Department.

Geographically, the River Irrawaddy flows throughout the country from north to south. It is naturally important for transportation from her eastern side to western side and vice versa, for those bridges were built.

"Nevertheless l, in building the bridges the least compact bridge building design and techniques should be used," commented U Zaw Win, Director of Magwe Region River and Creeks Development Department.

The process of bridge-construction across the river had firmly proved that, with the Irrawaddy's failures, the related people ranging from marine transport companies, agents, to crop-growers and fishers have been badly effected and their socio-economic lives doomed.

All over the world similarly there occur incidents in which the natural environment protection is totally ignored for the purposes of infrastructure development.

Also in Myanmar, a developing nation infrastructure development is prioritized, and with such prioritization had the natural environment deteriorated.

Among such regrettable incidents as mentioned above, that of Myanmar's Irrawaddy is a clear example for her Domino Effect she suffers, and still she continue to flow quietly but weakly and exhaustedly.

Report by Magway Post.

Behind the Scene of the Over-bridges Across Rivers