Posted in Legislative Research on May 16, 2020

This bill was posted on the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw website on 10.03.2020 and described in the state-run newspapers Myanmar Alin and The Mirror on 7th, 8th and 9th of March, requesting input from the public.

Current Status (16.05.2020) – awaiting submission to Hluttaw for debate

(1) Backgrounder

For some time, the only law concerning canals in Myanmar was The Canal Act, released in 1905. This Act was mostly related to the Department of Irrigation and incomplete when it comes to maritime matters. When the Irrigation Canal Law was enacted in 2017, it replaced the Act. However, there remain only Rules to regulate the navigation of the Twante Canal and Rules to regulate the navigation of the Kanaungto creek (1916) relating to the maritime issues.

The Commercial Maritime Canal Bill was submitted by the Ministry of Transport during the First Hluttaw, and presumably enacted under the new name of the Irrigation Canal Law. It can be assumed that this bill was also drafted and submitted by the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

(2) Bill Summary

The bill includes provisions relating to the duties and powers of the relevant ministry and department, duties of canal officers, maritime supervisors, customs officers and heads of vessels, and related prohibitions.

  • Its objectives are:
    • to streamline and secure the maritime navigation in the canal
    • to prevent water pollution in canals and areas adjacent
    • to protect waterways from socio-environmental harm
    • to develop private canals to quicken maritime trade
  • The duties and powers of the Ministry of Transport and Communications are:
    • to declare permissible routes for vessels, by notification
    • to coordinate with relevant union-level ministries to sustain the canal
    • to conduct, with the consent of the Government, trans boundary canal digging in order to develop maritime trade, or with the bi-lateral agreement
    • to determine tolls and when necessary, allow private organisations to tender
    • to sanction, with the Government’s consent, government department, organisation or domestic/foreign investor or government-private joint venture for the digging and expansion of canal with the prescribed systems – like Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) or Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT)
    • to negotiate with the relevant government groups, landowners or local land users for the use of private land in canal digging and expansion, after securing the Government’s consent
  • The duties and powers of the Water Resources and Improvement of River Systems Department are to conserve the canal area, to determine the size, carriage and speed of vessels, to supervise passage of vessels over the said limits, foreign vessels, and the vessels carrying dangerous goods under the supervision of a pilotage service or navigating vessel, and to release the news and warnings of maritime risks. Moreover, it may forbid and remove fishing activities, and fishing-related devices which can disturb the maritime traffic.
  • Any government department, organisation or person has to ask for permission from the Department for embanking, farm/crop growing, canal water diversion for use, heaping of rock, sand and brick on the embankment, and refuse disposal. The Department can allow or reject them.
  • For constructing buildings, making commercial fish-ponds, commercial sand suction, gold hunting and resource extraction, comments have to be secured from the Department and it can allow or reject them.
  • Provisions for the duties of canal officer, maritime supervisor, customs officer and head of vessel, including prohibitions and penalties are also included.
  • Matters relating to the Law’s provisions will be executed by this Law.

Relevant Laws

The Conservation of Water Resources and Rivers Law, 2006

The Inland Vessel Law (2015)

The Inland Water Transport Law (2015)

The Irrigation Canal Law (2017)


Bill Text


Moe Aung, The Ananda,