A journey through Burma’s Irrawaddy delta
The Irrawaddy River, now renamed the Ayerwaddy, flows through Burma’s center providing a major trade artery – the life-blood of the country’s economy.
The delta marks the end of a long journey for the Irrawaddy River, having finally arrived from the faraway Tibetan plateau. As it enters these lowlands the river spills over into myriad rivers and streams that feed intense rice cultivation as they wend their way to the sea.
The vast Irrawaddy delta was for years isolated from the outside by political oppression and antiquated infrastructure. Navigating the river remains one of the few ways to trade and stay in touch. So demand is high for tickets to board the many rusting boats that ply its waters from the capital to the provinces.
Joining an antiquated ferry crammed with passengers and goods I journey with the local people and get to know some of the dock-workers making a meager living carrying cargo.
Nearly a hundred miles across, farming and fishing opportunities in the delta have attracted a diverse population, making the area one of the most densely populated in the country.
The mangroves that once proliferated have increasingly given way to farming. The timber used for construction and cooking charcoal is shipped out to the capital Yangon.