Rangoon’s water supply stems from four reservoirs dotted around the city. A giant pipeline snakes through Kyauktada township in downtown Rangoon, plumbing water across 60 kilometres from the giant Gyohpyu reservoir in the city’s north.
The water from Gyohpyu sustains many of the six million people living in the former capital. Now, residents whose houses feed off of the pipeline say filthy water is being plumbed into their homes.
The yellowed water contains heavy sediment, which poses a clear health risk. The Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), who are responsible for connecting Rangoon’s water supply, say they are conducting tests.
Intermittent water closures have been felt in the city this week, as the council conducts much needed repair work. Nyo Htun, a Rangoon security guard, is in charge of monitoring his building’s plumbing. He says the water standard is unacceptable.
“Over the past three to four weeks there has been heavy sediment in the water coming up from the pipeline. You can see the scum on top if you leave it overnight,” he said. “It smells like garbage.”
The YCDC said it supplies around 200 million gallons of water per day to 60 percent of the city’s population. Those out of reach have to make do with private wells, public tanks, ponds and water collected from rooftops.
Local residents, accustomed to boiling water for drinking, say they now have to buy bottled water at an unsustainable cost. But as health problems loom, many have little choice.
“We don’t even know what is in the water,” said one resident of Rangoon’s Seikkantha Township.
“The council says it has sent samples to be tested. We don’t know how it could possibly smell so bad, it has a yellowish colour and it makes your hands sticky if you try to wash them in it.”
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), last year pledged 18 million dollars to the upgrade of Rangoon’s water supply. Joint projects between the YCDC and JICA include upgrades on pipelines and are due to be completed by 2015. But that may not come soon enough for people in central Rangoon, who are already reporting stomach and skin problems.