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Inle Lake, Myanmar

20.5N 96.9E

May 19th, 2009 Category: Lakes

Inle Lake, Myanmar - May 12th, 2009

Inle Lake, Myanmar - May 12th, 2009

Inle Lake (center) is a freshwater lake located in the mountains of Shan State in Myanmar. It is the country’s second largest lake, with an estimated surface area of 44.9 sq miles, and one of the highest at an altitude of 2900 feet.

During the dry season, the average water depth is 7 feet, with the deepest point being 12 feet, but during the rainy season this can increase by 5 feet.

Inle Lake drains through the Nam Pilu or Balu Chaung on its southern end. The watershed area for the lake lies to a large extent to the north and west of the lake.

Inle lake is suffering from the environmental effects of increased population. The surface area of the lake has shrunk within living memory. The practice of farming on floating gardens also encroaches into the diminishing area of the lake, since over time, the floating beds become solid ground.

The surrounding hills have also been stripped bare of trees harvested for their firewood. Deforestation and more intense agriculture on its western and northern watershed areas have brought in increasing amount of silt and nutrients into the shallow lake. This silt fills up the lake, the nutrients encourage the growth of weeds and algae.

The water hyacinth, a plant not native to the lake, also poses a major problem. Its aggressive growth fills up the smaller streams, and clutters even larger expanses of the lake, robbing native plants and animals of sunlight. Large-scale mechanical control, using dredges and pumps, has been used with some success over the last twenty years.

Another cause for concern is the planned introduction of non-native fish species, such as Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) intended to improve fishery.

Sanitation in the villages around the lake is an ongoing concern for public health authorities, due to untreated waste water flowing into the lake. To ensure fresh and clean water, some villages now have enclosed wells and public access to the well water.

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