NEWS | Jan. 7, 2019

U.S., Myanmar Engage in Flood Modeling Endeavor

By Sgt. 1st Class Ershwyn Thibou

YANGON, Myanmar -- The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) Pacific Ocean Division (POD) conducted a technical exchange in Yangon, Myanmar Dec. 10-14, 2018 with a focus on flood modeling.

Natural disasters know no bounds. Disasters are nondiscriminatory and affect people of all nationalities and backgrounds all across the globe. USACE POD, as part of its mission, works to help developing Indo-Pacific countries build capacity and resiliency to disasters. USACE partnered with the Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation (MOALI), Irrigation and Water Utilization Management Department (IWUMD) to provide flood modeling training to approximately 50 engineers and water resource experts from four Myanmar ministries and academia.

The 3rd Myanmar-U.S. Technical Exchange in Flood Modeling was designed to enhance Government of Myanmar resiliency by improving the nation's ability to plan against flood related catastrophes.

Subject Matter Experts provided five days of intensive one-dimensional steady state hydraulic modeling training using the USACE Hydrologic Engineering Center (HEC) River Analysis System (HEC-RAS) computer software. The software, developed by the Corps of Engineers, is considered an international standard available for download by anyone in the world at no cost. It has been downloaded over 100,000 times in over 150 countries. During the fall of this year, USACE partnered with agencies in South Korea to provide similar training in HEC-RAS two-dimensional modeling to nine countries in Daejeon, South Korea.

For Fiscal Year 2019, USACE is scheduled to complete over 60 similar international cooperation activities in 16 countries. USACE leverages its core competencies in emergency management, flood risk reduction, expertise in dams, engineering and construction to promote the enabling of our allies, partners, and friends, while contributing to the U.S. government's long term commitment to the region, and assists in maintaining strategic partnerships, providing assistance, and building relationships with partner nations in the Indo-Pacific.

The modeling workshop, funded by the USACE Water Resource Development Act (WRDA 234) also supports the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) Program, a program created in 2009 by the U.S., Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam with the intent to assist Mekong countries with addressing trans-boundary issues. The LMI focuses on six pillars: environment & water, health, agriculture, connectivity, education, and energy security. Myanmar formally joined in 2012.

U Kyaw Myint Hlaing, Myanmar Director General for IWUMD, provided remarks at the workshop and emphasized that the Dams in Myanmar bring water, power, flood control, recreation and many other advantages to their society. "We must keep in mind that safe operation and maintenance is a key to sustaining these advantages and avoiding potential disaster from failure," he stated.

U Bo Bo Kyaw, IWUMD Deputy Director also provided remarks at the closing ceremony expressing his desire for "continued support from the Army Corps of Engineers to accelerate efforts that continuously support Myanmar in providing technical assistance, particularly for application of two-dimensional hydraulic modeling for hazard classification of dams."

Evan Ting, who is POD's senior program manager for international cooperation, stressed the importance of the training workshop. "The 3rd Myanmar-U.S. Technical Exchange is part of a five year collaboration plan with the Government of Myanmar to help build capacity "The ultimate goal of the workshop and all of the training is to mitigate the loss of human life, and property due to water related disasters. MOALI IWUMD has been a phenomenal partner and we look forward to collaborations long into the future."

Enabling partner nations to be self-sufficient in their disaster response preparedness serves to help equip them with the tools needed to proficiently tackle the problems, and issues that usually follow flood related disaster.

According to the International Financial Institution, the World Bank, which provides loans to countries around the world for capital projects; disasters cost the country of Myanmar over $184 million annually, and disproportionally hurt the poor. The goal of missions like these is to minimize the effects of natural disasters on the lives of the people, particularly the most vulnerable.

According to Dr. Zaw Zaw Latt, an IWUMD Hydrologist and participant in the workshop, the country's officials were impressed not only by the expertise of the USACE instructors, but also by the patience they demonstrated, especially in answering the many questions directed at them. "I would highly recommend this flood modeling workshop to all civil engineers from IWUMD and related professionals who are interested in hydrologic and hydraulic modeling. The workshop has exceeded my expectations," said Latt.

Gen. Thomas Tickner, POD commanding general, shared his thoughts on the value of the engagement and expressed his gratitude to Myanmar officials for hosting the POD team, and commended them on the training. "Because we share common interests in the responsibility for enhancing water security in our countries, we are honored to have had the opportunity with Myanmar in this area of focus. We've come together with a common goal, disaster preparedness. The only way for us to be successful in this endeavor is to continue the collaborative discussions, exchange of ideas and relationship building that we've experienced, in order to effectively face the challenge of today and tomorrow," said Tickner.

The USACE team showed their continued commitment to the mission and met with IWUMD key staff to finalize the five year collaboration plan, and to conduct preliminary planning for a 2019 follow on engagements.

According to POD experts, the unpredictability of floods make it essential that nations be prepared to ably respond when disaster does strike.

USACE will continue to be at the forefront of the effort to help Indo-Pacific nations be prepared whenever the inevitable does occur.

POD, as the strategic engineer of choice will be alongside, assisting and leading the way with a team of proven professionals to enhance partner capabilities.