LINC Myanmar 
Linking Infrastructure and Communities toward Waste Disposal in Myanmar

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The river streams and drains throughout the town have become quite polluted. Starting from 3-4 years ago, the town has experienced floods, in large part due to the buildup of trash blocking water runoff. A river cleanup was believed to not only clear the river after a recent flood, but also spread awareness of the trash issue and inspire people to think about their role in shaping the situation.

Flood during June 2014.


Drains began gushing out muddy water.

Some roads were unable to be driven through.


Traffic jams throughout the city ensued as many people, including all students sent home from school, tried to get around on limited roads.

Completely flooded elementary school.


Here we would begin the first river cleanup on the stream behind the school and the drain next to it.

Planning

A partnership between various groups and individuals allowed the river cleanup to happen.  We approached the leader of the White Tiger Party, Sai Than Maung, who further contacted the local government and a few of his friends interested in supporting the endeavor.  The town committee was for it, and the official organizer of the event on the part of the government is Htun Win.  The committee sent its officials as supervisors and provided trucks and construction machines and took the trash to a specially designated landfill, instructed not to be burned.


Sai Than Maung helped plan the event, and personally provided boots for the volunteers, and some of his friends donated shovels, baskets, and trucks.  The Soe Family, a local water bottling company, provided free water, and some individuals donated snacks and prepared lunch for the event.  


A few health organizations, including the Myanmar Red Cross Society and the Community-Based First Aid (ToT) Organization, offered their services in case of injury and provided free gloves and masks to people. 

A few people involved in organizing and donating to the cleanup.

Health volunteers gave out masks and gloves and were readily stationed in case of injury.

Baskets and shovels for clearing debris from the waterways.  The metal tips and the bamboo sticks had to be assembled, which was done the day before.

Reese with Sai Than Maung (left) and his friend.

Boots for the workers.  So many people showed up that there wasn't enough for everyone, and those working in the stream and drain were given priority.

Around 15-20 water tanks, each one gallon, were supplied by the Soe Family.  The paper cups were reused at the tanks, as is common in Myanmar society.

A section of a stream behind an elementary school as well as a nearby drain were targeted. The stream was not only polluted with trash items, but had become shallower and narrower due to the buildup of mud and trees in the stream. A government trash bin nearby was also to be knocked down, as the smell of trash regularly reached the classrooms; in addition, the soil on this road was leveled, and a tree on the side of the road was taken down.   


Cleanup was to take place on Saturday, June 21, from 7am to 11am, after which lunch would be served.  For cleaning the stream, one group of people was to form two lines to transport baskets back and forth between the river cleaners and the waste collection trucks.  Another group was to help clear out the stream by first removing the trash and then trees and mud.  The drain cleaning was organized similarly, where people worked at removing debris and moving baskets back and forth.  Nearby, construction vehicles worked at clearing the trash bin and tidying up the road.

The stream behind the school.  Trash items, trees, and mud severely encroached on it.

A town drain, in similar condition to the one cleaned next to the school.

The elementary school to be cleaned at.  At the top of the page is a photo of it flooded only a few days before.  It was chosen as the first location because of the interest of the small children that regularly attended it and had to leave school when it flooded, smell the trash from the bin in their classrooms, and play near the trash and mud in the back.

Outcomes

Around 300 volunteers from various sources showed up, much more than was expected. Construction workers, policemen, and others cleared out the stream of trash and trees and worked at breaking up the muddy banks that had formed in the river.  Women from the Five Tigers factory, among others, formed two long lines to pass the baskets of muddy trash.  Sai Than Maung, as well as members of the local government, supervised the various efforts.


Around 80% of the river stream was cleared out at the end of the cleanup, with only a small section of muddy bank left to break out and potentially some areas to dig deeper as they were maybe a bit too shallow.  60% of the drain was cleared out completely, with the remaining part having had its trash removed and only a layer of mud to remove.  A few people even collected 1.5 sacks of recyclables from the drain to take to a recycling shop.  The wall between the drain and the stream, which had a small gap for the water, was broken down to allow the water to flow more and provide easier access to the stream when cleaning. The government bin was completely taken apart, as well as the tree on the side of the road, and the soil on the road was leveled and taken away by trucks. The trash bin is to be relocated farther up on the same road. Unfortunately, just a day after the cleanup, some people polluted the road by placing a pile of trash on the former spot of the bin. The muddy ground in the back of the school was covered over by rocks. Vehicles used included various trucks, governmental trash trucks, an excavator, and a bulldozer.  


The river cleanup was so popular among the people that they requested it to happen weekly.  This didn't prove to be logistically possible, but Sai Than Maung and some of his friends want to be in charge of the next river cleanups, scheduled every two weeks.

People crowd around to collect the tools they will use before starting on the cleanup.

Policemen made a few hours' appearance to clear the stream of some trees and mud.

Cleaning the drain.

 

Sai Than Maung supervising the event.

 

Sai Than Maung's wife hands out watermelon, a snack provided by a generous donator.

 

We also helped a little in the cleanup by joining the basket lines.  

 

Stream after cleanup.  The wall was demolished here.

These women pass the baskets from the stream cleaners to the trucks.

Cleaning the drain.

Trash, including organic waste such as trees and mud, as well as non-organics such as packaging, was collected and sent off on trucks.

The government trash bin near the school is taken down to be relocated.  Some government officials supervise.

Free lunch after the cleanup.

Our main role in the cleanup, however, was to plan it, find supporters to realize it, and prepare materials to be dispersed to raise awareness and stop future river pollution.

Drain after cleanup.

Want to help us?

Interested in sustainability, health, education, and the future of Myanmar?  Interested in seeing what you can do and how you can improve life in Myanmar?