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Hundreds of villages across Burma suffered dire water shortages last year, with pressure set to increase when El Niño hits the peak of its cycle, according to Naypyidaw’s environment experts.
In 2015, more than 450 villages in Irrawaddy, Rangoon and Pegu divisions, and Arakan State faced complete water shortages, with the effects of El Niño predicted to worsen the strain on vulnerable communities, the Department of Rural Development said. Temperatures have already soared to a scorching 35 degrees Celsius in February, and are expected to climb higher.
Originating from warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, total rainfall is dramatically reduced during the powerful weather event. In 2010 it brought high temperatures and associated health-related problems, along with water shortages.
With this years’ El Niño phenomenon forecasted to last until June, lower house MP Maung Thin submitted an urgent proposal calling on the government to guarantee inter-departmental cooperation in the event of an environmental emergency.
The new lower house also formed three environmental parliamentary hearings, including the Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Committee.
Meanwhile, in Chin State, approximately 700 displaced residents in the state’s capital of Hakha are facing a shortage of drinking water in Ral Hmone camp. First forced to flee from lethal landslides, the displaced locals are awaiting replacement homes – but have reported drinking water has become scarce as the temperature rises in recent weeks.
Burma remains one of the countries most affected by climate in the Asia Pacific region, as well as the least equipped to respond to the associated risks, according to United Nations urban development programme, UN Habitat.
Last years’ flooding crisis in August stretched authorities to their limits, effecting 12 of 14 states and regions and over 1.1 million people. Lack of safe drinking water and contaminated wells led to diarrhea and malnutrition compounding the strain on communities and relief workers – highlighting gaps in the country’s ability to immediately respond to widespread natural disasters.