Accepted Paper:

Where Land and Water Meet: Changing relations in the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) delta in Myanmar   


Benoit Ivars (University of Cologne)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the land-and-water dynamics surrounding the development of water infrastructures in the Ayeyarwady river delta. It will shed light on the influences and relationships of different infrastructuring types with the amphibiousness of the deltas.

Paper long abstract:

In recent years a number of scholars have highlighted the so-called 'open approaches' to flood management as tailored to the necessity of free passage of water and sediments on the floodplains. In contrast to the dominant stream of closing-of initiatives that often consist in building barriers between lands and waters, such as in the case of polders or embankments, these practices have been described as providing openings for ecological dynamics in delta environments. This paper analyses the history of land and water control measures in the Ayeyarwady delta in Myanmar to show how different infrastructuring types resonate with the delta amphibiousness. Rather than taking infrastructures either as 'openings' or 'closings', this paper attempts to follow a more balanced approach, raising questions about what is open to whom, and what is closed to whom? In other words, it outlines how 'open' or 'closed' the components of different infrastructuring types were, and how their relationships with land and water resources conditions affected dwellings in the delta. The article's intention is twofold. First, it seeks to expand our repertoire of how water and land are merged and separated by human activities and how those activities are in turn shaped by political and ecological dynamics. Second, it seeks to ignite a sense of place that is neither overly wet nor dry, open nor closed, and emphasizes the need to better grasp the interactions between infrastructural forms and watery relationships as well as their variations in space and time.

Panel Env05
Amphibious dwelling: exploring life between wet and dry