I learned the value of clean water the hard way. My first work trip after graduation involved examining how effluent from a sugar mill impacts the water quality of a nearby river. New on the job, I went out to collect water samples in 40°C weather without taking drinking water. After becoming overheated, I asked for water from the mill’s security guards. Strikingly, the guards were drinking water taken directly from the river. I had no choice but to chug what they offered—the same water I would later analyze. Fortunately, I did not get sick, but I did find arsenic and coliforms in the water.
Water resources in Myanmar are degrading at an alarming rate as the country’s economy opens up. However, over 95% of Myanmar’s businesses are small and medium enterprises (SMEs); forcing factories to follow emission guidelines without providing any assistance is simply driving them out of business.
This is exactly why I switched from being an Environmental Impact Assessment consultant to providing technical support for Myanmar’s SMEs to treat their wastewater. While working with WWF Myanmar, I quickly learned that for businesses to commit to treating wastewater, they need three main things: technical know-how, financial incentives, and human resources.
During my one-year tenure at WWF, I helped six factories treat their wastewater with the most suitable technologies. In addition, when treatment costs were too high for the factories, I connected the owners with potential investors.
Currently at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, I am focusing my studies on how to finance wastewater treatment infrastructures at the national level in Myanmar. The idea came to me when I took key stakeholders to Malaysia to study wastewater treatment systems in practice. I found that even in a more developed country like Malaysia, factories would often rather pay fines than treat their wastewater because the necessary technology is unaffordable for many SMEs.
- Age: 27
- Ethnicity: Burmese, Mon
- Country: Myanmar
School & Program
- Wageningen University
- Master’s, Urban Environmental Management
- 2nd Year in Program
Goals & Dreams
- Transform waste management sector in Myanmar
- Promote private sector investment in sustainable development
- Loan Amount: $11,400
- Amount Left To Fund: $6,800
- Contract Duration: 15 years
- Status: Prefunded by Zomia
What Others Are Saying About Nanda
My master’s degree at Wageningen is jointly supported by WWF’s Russell E. Train Education for Nature Program and Zomia SPC. Receiving a postgraduate degree from an institution with a global reputation like Wageningen will prepare me to become an adviser to government regulators. In addition, the Netherlands is well-known as a leader in sustainability. Spending two years in the country will expose me to good practices in sustainable development and green finance, which is necessary for unlocking private sector investment in sustainable technologies. After my studies, I will return to WWF Myanmar and implement the ideas in my master’s thesis, turning theory into practice.
Conservation is not possible unless human interests are considered. I feel fortunate to be working for WWF because we provide results-oriented solutions to businesses instead of playing the blame game. When not working, I enjoy hiking in the mountains of the Dawna Tenasserim Landscape. The area is one of the last remaining regions in Southeast Asia with a functional tiger population and supports an array of biodiversity. Most importantly, seeing the land I am trying to protect from atop the mountain peaks encourages me to push forward with my goal to build a cleaner, more beautiful Myanmar.
Written by Nanda with editing assistance from Ken, one of Zomia’s volunteer editors.
“The most adventurous trip I’ve been on was in the islands of the Mergui Archipelago, where I used a fisherman as a guide. I fell in love with Myanmar’s natural wonders and dedicated my career to protecting the environment.”
“I hope that more people in Myanmar take DNA tests and share them publicly to remind everyone that the ethnic conflicts we face today stem from differences that surfaced very recently. We all came from the same parents at one point in time.”