REPORT: Water Governance and Access to Water in Hakha Town, Chin State, Myanmar

Water Governance and Access to Water in Hakha Town, Chin State, Myanmar

Publication date:
October 2017

Water Governance and Access to Water in Hakha Town, Chin State, Myanmar

Carl Middleton, Naruemon Thabchumpon, Van Bawi Lian and Orapan Pratomlek

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Hakha town is the capital of Chin State, Myanmar, located in the mountainous Northwest of the country. In recent years, the town’s population has faced growing water insecurity, which has created great hardship for the local population. Meanwhile, a major landslide in the town in July 2015 compounded these challenges, resulting in the resettlement of over 4000 people.

The purpose of the research presented in this report is to understand the underlying factors and dynamics that have produced water insecurity in Hakha town to generate policy recommendations towards attaining sustainable access to water for all.  

Since being designated as the Chin State capital in 1965, Hakha town’s population has grown rapidly and demand for water is also inevitably growing. However, dry season water insecurity due to population growth alone is not the complete picture.  Hakha’s water sources have also become less productive than the past principally as a result of the watershed’s degradation and, in particular, its deforestation. This has resulted from road construction, the expansion of small- and large-scale agriculture, and the unplanned and often illegal construction of hundreds of houses and other buildings, as well as the establishment of two military bases on top of the Rung Mountain. Throughout the town’s expansion into the watershed, there has been a lack of watershed and urban planning. There is also a lack of water storage infrastructure for water supply, which reflects a long-term underinvestment in Chin State.

At present, Hakha town does not have a comprehensive municipal water supply. In its absence, the local population has turned to themselves and manage water through a combination of local community water groups and small-scale private activities (private springs and bottled water) to bring water to the town. Whilst this has broadly enabled the town’s residents to meet their basic needs, new migrant arrivals to the town in particular can struggle to access water given that in the dry season water is already over-allocated. The upcoming commissioning of the Timit Dam and an accompanying municipal water system, anticipated for 2019, will certainly help alleviate water shortages in Hakha town, but many questions remain towards the price of the supplied water and how it will be allocated amongst the town’s population.

The report concludes that addressing water insecurity in Hakha town should not only be approached as a technical and engineering challenge, but should also be recognized as a governance challenge. Much of Hakha town’s urban expansion and watershed deforestation has taken place under relatively opaque and unaccountable governments in the past. The transition to a quasi-civilian government since 2011, and it associated sub-national governance reform, in particular the creation of State Governments and the Municipal Office, offers new opportunities for urban and watershed planning.

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Citation: Middleton, C., Thabchumpon, T., Van Bawi Lian, and Pratomlek, O. (2017) “Water governance and access to water in Hakha Town, Chin State, Myanmar: Towards addressing water insecurity.” October 2017. Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University: Bangkok.