If you ever sailed along the great river Irrawaddy (Ayarwaddy or Ayeyarwaddy), the largest and longest river in Myanmar, you would notice one thing. Life is almost as it was sixty years ago. Old wooden ships still run along the river as it was before the World War II. Workers carry rice sacks over their shoulders, loading and unloading ships docked at the piers. Naked children swim in the muddy river while their mothers bath on the river bank; the same thing that their mothers and grand mothers might have done a century ago. Meanwhile, their fathers row small boats, catching fish along the river. Life was no different from sixty years ago for them.
Irrawaddy, being the longest river in Myanmar, runs through the heart of the country. As most of Burma’s ancient cities were built along the river, it was always the life line of the country for more than a thousand years. Although. with the development of modern land transportation, its importance has declined in recent years, Irrawaddy still plays an important role in modern Myanmar (Burma). Thousands of people, if not millions, still depend on the river for their living. Thousands of acres of farms use water from Irrawaddy for firming while people living in cities and towns along the river use its water for domestic use as well as for drinking. And it still plays a major role in transportation of goods among many cities and towns.
I have crossed Irrawaddy many times in a small boat. Every time I crossed, I was fascinated at the vastness and richness of the river. It gave me plenty of opportunity to observe life along the river. While I am writing this article, I believe somewhere along the river Irrawaddy, a child is swimming in the muddy river, completely unaware of the modern marvels that so many of us are enjoying. For those children, life is the same as it was in the time of their fathers, and their grand fathers.