Claiming and re-claiming the Ayeyarwady Delta, time and again: the case of Nyaungdone Island, Myanmar

Authors: ,


Since 2011 and the transition to civilian government, Myanmar and the Ayeyarwady Delta in particular are witnessing swift and dramatic changes in the modalities of access and use of natural resources. Drawing from political ecology, and on the basis of ethnographic work conducted in Yeinek village tract in the Nyaungdone Township of the Ayeyarwady Delta, this article places recent resources dynamics in a historical perspective. Rather than seeing natural resources as a 'given', we see them as resulting from socially embedded strategies of resource-making. These strategies contribute to a constant redefinition of the "resource-frontier" the delta has historically been for multiple actors. Notably, we show how land for rice cultivation, and water for capture fisheries and aquaculture, have been made into key resources over time, often in an exclusionary way. Post-2011 land and fishery reforms are the most recent examples of resource-making dynamics; they have certainly triggered significant resource re-allocation, but existing cross-scale patronage networks still largely shape how this takes place in practice. Finally, in this deltaic environment where resources are part water, part land, part rice, part fish, and the legitimacy of one's claims often hinges on proving prior use of a specific resource, it is the nature of the resource to be reallocated that is contested. In the newly politicized context of Myanmar, resources and institutional fluidity is in itself a frontier to navigate.

Keywords: exclusion, frontier, resource making, land, fisheries, Myanmar, Ayeyarwady Delta

How to Cite: Ivars, B. & Venot, J. (2020) “Claiming and re-claiming the Ayeyarwady Delta, time and again: the case of Nyaungdone Island, Myanmar”, Journal of Political Ecology. 27(1). doi: