Valuing ecosystem services in the Ayeyarwady River Basin

Valuing ecosystem services in the Ayeyarwady River Basin

23.10.2017 - Posted by Josh Tait
As I wait to board my flight home from the great city of Yangon I thought I would take this opportunity to write a blog about what I have been doing over here. In a nutshell, Myanmar is undergoing national water reform to develop the institutions and tools required for the sustainable management of the nation’s water resources. Part of this reform includes an integrated river basin management plan for the Ayeyarwady River Basin (ARB). 

The ARB is a significant and defining landmark in Myanmar, expanding over 400,000 km2 (~ 59% of Myanmar’s total landmass). The figure below depicts the ARB, the regions located in the Basin and the major waterways. The population of the ARB is estimated at around 33.2 million (64% of Myanmar’s population). The people of Myanmar have a powerful connection with the Basin, particularly the 2,170km long Ayeyarwady River, and this is clearly evident with how they respect and engage with it daily.
A key building block in the development of integrated river basin management is the development of a comprehensive environmental, social and economic baseline. The baseline, to be documented in a State of the Basin Assessment (SOBA) report, will explore the historical and future trends of key characteristics of the Basin and how it is used for the economic benefit of communities and the country. The SOBA is being developed in six packages of work covering the natural, economic and social systems of the Basin. We have been engaged by the Australian Water Partnership to undertake a rapid assessment to quantify the ecosystem services of the Basin. 
The ARB is vitally important to Myanmar’s stock of natural capital, economy and many peoples' livelihoods. With large scale development of the basin’s water resources likely to occur over the coming decades, there are significant risks to the physical integrity and condition of the Basin’s natural capital. The physical impacts of poor management could be profound and would have major consequences for the country’s economy.

Some Basin statistics:
The ARB has 7.5 million ha of agricultural land, approximately 59% of agricultural land nationally
The ARB accounts for approximately 87% of mining activity nationally
The ARB holds most the of the country’s on-shore energy resources, approximately contributing: 40% to national oil production, 45% to national biomass production and 63% to national hydropower production  
The waterways of the ARB represent approximately 71% of navigable inland water routes nationally
75% of registered manufacturing enterprises in 2014 – 2015 were in the ARB states/regions

Our work focused on six key ecosystem services.
Inland Water Transport 
Potable Water Supply
We have estimated the aggregate value of the above six ecosystem services is in the range of USD 2.5 to USD 7.5 billion per annum (Myanmar total GDP for 2016 was USD 75.1 Billion). So, something very significant and worth considering as Myanmar further develops the basin!

Finally, it has been an absolute privilege to work with such inspired local and international contributors – I truly hope this is just the beginning of Alluvium and my work in Myanmar. A big thank you to Alluvium and Natural Capital Economics for giving me this experience. 
Feel free to get in touch if you would like to know more.