Posted in Legislative Research on Apr 29, 2020

This bill was posted on the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw website on 20.12.2019 and described in the state-run newspapers Myanmar Alin and The Mirror on 20th and 21st of December, requesting input from the public. The bill has been submitted to the Hluttaw by the Pyithu Hluttaw Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Committee.

Current Status (29.04.2020) – awaiting debate in the Pyithu Hluttaw

(1) Backgrounder

Myanmar has an abundant of water resources. According to some report, the country is using only lower than 5 % of available fresh water. To manage those water resources nationwide, the National Water Resources Committee (NWRC) was formed under President Office Notifications No. 65/2013 and 42/2016. The committee is chaired by the Second Vice-president, with the Director-General from the Department of Water Resources and Rivers Conservation as secretary.

Its duties include: to supervise the drafting of laws, by-laws and procedures in line with the National Integrated Water Resources Management Strategy and National Water Resources Policy; to impose direct/indirect tax on the transactions and services of water resources; and to collect funds from domestic and international sources in order to establish a Water Resources Trust Fund for the development of water resources.

As for the groundwater, Myanmar is using for many purposes: domestic, industry and irrigation. Some data says more than 50 % has been used for the irrigation purpose. On the other hand, due to the poor water supply in the urban area, urbanization process and lack of regulations with modern legislation, the use of groundwater is abused such that it invites imminent dangers like seawater filtering, land subsidence and groundwater contamination.

Once the current bill is approved, The Underground Water Act (Burma Act No. IV) will be revoked.

The bill has been drafted by the Department of Urban and Housing Development within the Ministry of Construction. Beginning in 2014 and the bill was originally called the “Myanmar’s underground water resources” bill, and has undergone 7 redrafts. In 2016, drafting was transferred to the Pyithu Hluttaw Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Committee.

(2) Bill Summary

The bill includes provisions relating to applications for drilling permits, groundwater use permits and business licences, and the extension of licence tenure, and prohibitions.

  • Its objectives are to recognise the value of groundwater, to extract and use groundwater systematically without causing environmental harm, and to maintain groundwater’s sustainable use and quality.
  • The Union Government will form a Central Committee for Groundwater Management, with the Minster for Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation as chair, the Director-General for the Department of Geological Survey and Mineral Exploration as secretary, and including the usual array of Deputy Ministers from ‘relevant ministries’, and Director-Generals and Deputy Director-Generals from relevant departments.
  • The duties of the Central Committee are to formulate policy related to the supervision and conservation of groundwater with the consent of the Union Government; to instruct the designated Department in terms of data collection, records and research; to monitor compliance with prescribed standards in groundwater extraction; and raise awareness of standards. It can also form the working groups at the Region/State and Township levels.
  • For drilling permits and groundwater use permits (issued for wells drilled with permit after testing water quality), applications have to be submitted to relevant working groups. During the process, applicants have the right to modify their application and appeal if rejected. Permit holders are subject to the relevant working groups’ scrutiny and when permit holder want to close down a well, prior permission has to be secured.
  • Those who want to conduct a drilling business must apply for a business license to the Township working group for domestic use, and to the Region/State level for industrial use.
  • Drilling permit holders must complete their operations during the prescribed period and if they do not, they must apply for an extension. Business license holders have to renew 60 days before the expiry date at the Region/State working group.
  • The administrative penalties and appeals, prohibitions and criminal penalties are also included.
  • The Central Committee has to manage artesian wells and artesian zones. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation can request from the Union Government budgets for research, laboratory and technical matters so as to strengthen the data about groundwater.

Relevant Law

The Conservation of Water Resources and Rivers Law, 2006


Bill Text

Examining the Groundwater Management Bill


Moe Aung, The Ananda.