Irrawaddy Delta or Ayeyarwady Delta lies in the Irrawaddy
Division, the lowest expanse of land in
Myanmar that fans out from the
limit of tidal influence at
Myan Aung to the
Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal and Andaman
Sea, 290 km to the south at the mouth of the Ayeyarwady River.
The delta region is densely populated, and plays a dominant role in
the cultivation of rice in rich alluvial soil as low as just 3 metres
above sea level, although it also includes fishing communities in a
vast area full of rivers and streams. On 2 May 2008, the delta
suffered a major disaster, devastated by Cyclone Nargis, which
reportedly killed at least 77,000 people with over 55,900 missing, and
left about 2.5 million homeless.
1.1 Arms and terrain
1.4 River banks
1.6 Major cities
4 Economy and development
5 National heritage sites and nature reserves
6 See also
9 External links
Arms and terrain
Irrawaddy Delta comprises the main arms of
Pathein River, Pyapon
Bogale River, and Toe River. Mawtin Point, formerly Cape
Negrais, is a famous landmark in the Irrawaddy Division, and it also
marks the south west end of Myanmar. The highest point of the delta,
Waphu Mount 404 m (1,325 ft) lies between
Pathein and Mawtin
Zun (point), on the western strip of the delta. A major portion of the
area is covered with low-lying lands just 3m above sea level. This
alluvial plain is bounded to the west by the Rakhine Yoma and to the
east by the Bago Yoma. It is dissected into peninsulas and islands by
the large southward flowing rivers which are subject to tidal
intrusion. The lower seaward third of the delta is completely flat
with no local relief and stretches for 130 km from east to
The waters of these rivers are very turbid due to a heavy silt load
they carry and the sea is very shallow with depths less than
5.5 m across the coastline and in the east for a distance of up
to 28 km offshore. As a result of constant accretion into the
sea, the delta is advancing at a rate of 5–6 km per 100 years,
equivalent to about 1,000 hectares per year.
Annual rainfall in the delta region is approximately 2,500 mm
(100 in), with a mean temperatures of 32 °C
(90 °F). Most of the rain falls during the monsoons between
mid-May and mid-November. It is cool and dry from mid-October to
mid-February when temperatures begin to rise with premonsoon squalls
in April and early May.
Water purity lies within the pH range of alkaline condition due to
early natural resources and weak environmental control.
Lamu and nipa palm or Dani are the major vegetation of the delta.
Moreover, control of weeds is less active as local farmers make mats
during the summer. Destruction of mangroves and deforestation in the
coastal region due to the
Cyclone Nargis put it more at risk in
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (May 2008)
The principal islands include Haingyi Kyun, Leit Kyun (Turtle Island),
Pyin Salu Kyun, and Meinmahla Kyun (Pretty Women Island).
Major cities include Bogale, Maubin, Myaungmya, Moulmeingyun,
Pantanaw, Pathein, Pyapon,
Dedaye up to Twante, and Kyauktan.
There is no extensive system of irrigation or water transport canals
Twante Canal, constructed during the colonial period. It is
much beneficial to the delta region for communication and commerce
through water transportation with Yangon. Delta culture hence shifted
to Yangon, its influence evident in places and products such as Bogale
Market, Mortin Quarter, Yay Kyaw Quarter, Danubyu Restaurants, Pathein
Halawa (halva dessert), Tinphyu mats from Pantanaw, and Pathein
The delta was historically populated by the Mon. Politically, the
Burman kingdoms in farther north the
Irrawaddy river had controlled
the delta area since the mid-11th century for the most part with few
exceptions. The control of the fertile area reverted to Bago-based Mon
kingdoms in the 13th to 15th centuries (1287–1539) and briefly in
the 18th century (1747–1757).
The delta was also where the British first got toe-hold of Burma. The
British seized Haingyi Kyun or Negrais Island in 1753, after the Mon
resisted their request to establish a trading post. The Burmese king
Alaungpaya ceded the island to the British in 1757 but retook the
island in 1759 by force when the king felt he had been betrayed by the
British in his war against the Mon. The battle of Danubyu in 1825
in the delta was the last major stand by the Burmese against the
advancing British forces in the
First Anglo-Burmese War (1824–1826).
The delta was seized by the British in the
Second Anglo-Burmese War of
1852 and became part of British Burma.
The British colonial administration drained the marshes and swamps
that dominated the area, and built dykes and embankments starting from
1861 for rice cultivation as the Burmans began to migrate south into
British Burma in search of greener pastures. There now exist
1,300 km of major embankments in the delta to protect 600,000
hectares of paddyland.
It is mainly populated by farming and fishing communities in several
villages besides market towns, mostly located along the main rivers.
At 100 per km2, it is one of the most densely populated regions in the
country with a total population of 3.5 million. Current
inhabitants include, apart from the Mon and Bamar, a majority Pwo
Economy and development
The region is Myanmar's largest rice producer, so its infrastructure
of road transportation has been greatly developed during the 1990s and
2000s. Two-thirds of the total arable land is under rice cultivation
with a yield of about 2,000–2,500 kg per hectare. Fishing is
carried out from fixed fishing frames as well as from small boats.
Prawn fishery and harvesting sea turtle eggs are also major commercial
activities both of which are now threatened by the loss of mangrove
forests as clearing of land proceeds for agriculture. Since
communication throughout the delta is easiest by water, almost every
household possesses a boat and major towns such as Bogale,
Myaungmya are served by steamer.
National heritage sites and nature reserves
Meinmahla Kyun Reservation is a national heritage site as well as a
natural habitat to many mangrove forests and diverse sea life. The
Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) is not a true river dolphin
native to the Delta region, but it was named after the river, and
these sea dolphins are known to enter the rivers of South East Asia.
^ a b c d e f g "Irrawaddy Delta". ARCBC (ASEAN Regional Centre for
Biodiversity Conservation). Archived from the original on 15 May 2008.
Retrieved 14 May 2008.
Myanmar death toll soars, devastation 'huge' "
Reuters 17 May 2008
^ Thein, Myat (2005). Economic Development of Myanmar.
^ "IMangrove destruction partly to blame for
Myanmar toll: ASEAN
chief", Google News, 6 May 2008
^ "Mangrove loss 'put Burma at risk'", BBC News, 6 May 2008
^ D.G.E. Hall (1960). Burma. Hutchinson University
Library. [permanent dead link]
National Geographic Magazine
National Geographic Magazine1
Irrawaddy Delta – MSN Encarta
UN:Myanmar's Food Bowl Devastated