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Partners for Water: Leap frogging with sustainable innovations in Myanmar

Partners for Water: Leap frogging with sustainable innovations in Myanmar

The Myanmar Ministries of Agriculture, Environment and Transport have expressed the need for more smart data measurements and analyses to be able to adequately choose the most sustainable solutions for their water and resource management. The ministries are working together with TU Delft and the partners of VPdelta to jointly develop smart ways to collect these data. Dr. Zam Lwin Tun, Director of the Irrigation Department said that "the researchers united in the Partners for Water Project have provided concrete solutions that we need, not just a paper report." During the celebration of World Water Day on 13 and 14 March 2017 in Nay Pyi Taw, government agencies, research institutions and entrepreneurs from Myanmar and the Netherlands ratified this collaboration. The project is sponsored by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).


Valuable water

The country experiences a rise of international exchange of expertise, cooperation. Ministries Agriculture, Environment and Transport aim to anticipate on the impact of this accelerated industrialisation, trade and urbanisation. They are committed to sustainable management of agricultural land, raw materials, infrastructure, economic growth. This includes the increasing importance of good water and resource management. In Myanmar culture water is an important element. During the annual Festival of Water, the biggest festival of the year, people showcase their appreciation of the role of water in everyday life. These developments create momentum to leapfrog in technological development of infrastructure and water resource management.


Fieldlabs for innovations

Marjan Kreijns, Programme Director of VPdelta and of the Partners for Water Project in Myanmar, is very pleased about the commitment of all partners making this road to sustainable innovations into a success: "The Myanmarese know how to turn these technological developments to their advantage. There is no large integrated water management infrastructure yet, therefore this beautiful country full of economic potential provides excellent living labs for testing and demonstrating innovations. Once these technological solutions have proven to be suitable, they can be implemented.” Seven Dutch startups, two SMEs, universities and colleges from the Netherlands and the universities and governmental institutions of Myanmar will jointly develop solutions regarding six water challenges. Living labs have proven to be effective for bringing innovations to the market. VPdelta has experienced this both in the Netherlands and abroad. “The living labs will firstly be good for the challenges in Myanmar. And secondly, it is an opportunity to put innovations of the Dutch water sector on the international map."



Measurement brings knowledge

Martine Rutten, research coordinator of this project, welcomes the possibility to conduct measurement experiments over a period of four years in a country where there is not much data available. She explains that the development and deployment of smart measurements and modelling are most needed for the issues of rain, erosion, sedimentation, water level, water quality and land subsidence: “Myanmar deals with dry and wet seasons, a moving river, a lot of sedimentation and a coast that needs to be protected. Many parties in Myanmar thus have a direct interest in good data on water.” Within the project local experts will carry out the measurements and the monitoring of the water, together with Dutch young professionals and students. The partners of the project will contribute with affordable and smart solutions. The first experiments have already started.

Smart meters for water level

Olivier Hoes (TU Delft) designed a smart and affordable system to measure water levels. During a workshop, the director of the Department of Irrigation in Myanmar told him that there is great need for that: "The current measurement system requires for staff to go on their mopeds to check the current meters on location, three times a day. They conduct the measurements manually, and report the results by phone. These data provide three dots on a timeline, but do not give an adequate image of the tide. This can be done more efficiently and there is a need for a more complete picture of the tide." Hoes came up with an automated system that measures and transmits the water levels every few minutes: “The new meters are easy to install and consists of components that together cost less  than 200 dollars. You can design something useful with very little resources." Hoes tested his prototype with students in the Delft lab. “In March 2017 Dutch and Myanmar students will test the prototypes at various locations in Myanmar, to see whether the meters operate under different climatic conditions over a longer period of time. The local partners participate in this research, sharing whether this innovation meets their needs, and thus are contributing to the development of the smart meter. Their participation in the development phase is important, because they are the managers of the meters after implementation."


Measuring currents with coconuts and GPS trackers 

Thom Bogaard (TU Delft) and Rolf Hut (TU Delft / Disdrometrics) tested an innovative method with a team of researchers from Delft and Myanmar to map the flow of the Irrawaddy in February 2017. With fifteen specially crafted GPS trackers, 400 balloons and LEDs, the researchers examined whether they could gather sufficient and good data on variations in flow rates. With these retrieved data, the researchers aim to design a hydraulic model and a water quality model of the river. Since the Irrawaddy is constantly changing, the partners in Myanmar will be repeating this measuring experiment periodically. (Read more here: Link to Stories of Science)

Smart data retrieval through open source

Both startups and well established companies and organizations participate in the Partners for Water project. International Foundation Akvo for example, makes data available through open source. In particular the water and agricultural sector gather data through its mobile software and web tools. "The collected data provide valuable input for strategic decisions and for monitoring the projects of our partners. This way we help research institutions, governmental bodies, civil society organisations and businesses with their social impact on agriculture, food security, health and economic growth, "according to Hans Merton (Akvo). Several partners of the project are making use of the Akvo services, such as the 'Akvo Flow' and 'Akvo Caddisfly' to collect field data about the water quality of the river Ayeryawaddy."

Smart use of satellite images

Profitable company VanderSat also provides their services to clients from all over the world. Celine Nobel (VanderSat) explains: "With our technology we can see via our satellites how much water is present in the ground. On the basis of these data, we can advise for example on water consumption and the right time for harvesting. "With our products, we want to make a positive contribution to increasing production and reducing costs for farmers. We see potential in cooperation with the other parties in the project to jointly come up with very interesting innovations for making predictions about future rainfall or drought. It is very inspiring how VPdelta has managed to bring these parties together with so many potential synergies. I expect that the partners in this project will complement each other very well, and that by working together, we can come with new innovations that can have a valuable impact on the water sector and agriculture in Myanmar. This is what gives all participating partners al lot of energy and high expectations for this project."

The Partners for Waterproject of VPdelta in Myanmar is called: “Leapfrogging Delta Management in Myanmar. Showcasing smart information solutions in the Ayeyarwady Delta”. The collaborators are:

Myanmar National Water Resources Committee (NWCR). Ministry of Transport and Communication, Department of Water Resources and Improvement of River Systems (DWIR), Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, Irrigation Department, Irrigation Technology Center (Bago), Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, Yangon, Technological University, Myanmar Maritime University, VPdelta, TU Delft, Disdrometrics, FutureWater, Akvo, SHORE Monitoring & Research, Mobile Water Management, HKV Lijn in Water, SkyGeo, Wavedroid, VanderSat.

This project is sponsored by Partners for Water, by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO)