Dutch water experts ready to help flood-stricken Myanmar

The Netherlands has offered to send a team of water experts to help Myanmar (Burma), which has recently been hit by severe flooding. In a joint letter sent to the Myanmar government, infrastructure and environment minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen and development minister Lilianne Ploumen announced that experts from the Dutch Risk Reduction (DRR) Team are ready to go when needed. 

The flooding has been caused by heavy rainfall, which is affecting several countries in southern Asia. More than one million people urgently need aid and the material damage is considerable. A state of emergency has been declared in four regions. The Netherlands is already contributing to the relief efforts by organisations on the spot in Myanmar, including the UN and the Red Cross. Ms Ploumen commented that the need is acute: ‘There is tremendous devastation and large numbers of people have been made homeless. More rain is expected, so it is vital to not only help the victims and provide for their immediate needs, but also to prevent even greater suffering.’

As a delta country, Myanmar is highly vulnerable to flooding, and has been badly hit in recent years. ‘I have seen with my own eyes how Myanmar has struggled to cope with repeated floods,’ said Ms Schultz van Haegen. ‘By deploying the Dutch Risk Reduction Team, we can help to find structural solutions to make the country more resilient to water problems.’ The Dutch Risk Disaster Team is a joint initiative by the two ministers and consists of Dutch experts from the business community, knowledge institutions, NGOs and government, who can be deployed at short notice in cases of flooding, drought and water pollution. The DRR team focuses on reconstruction and prevention, not on emergency aid.

The offer to deploy a DRR team ties in with the ongoing partnership between the Netherlands and Myanmar in the field of water. The Dutch government has earmarked €3 million for water cooperation with Myanmar between 2015 and 2017. In 2015 the first pilot projects were launched using Dutch knowledge and expertise for sustainable water management. A Dutch high level expert team led by former minister Cees Veerman is advising the Myanmar authorities on integrated water management. In the week of 16 August, a delegation from the high level expert team will be visiting Myanmar for talks with the authorities there about follow-up partnership activities, including the possibility of deploying the DRR team.