Published: 2020-02-27 12:40:40 BdST
Eventually, the 1,500 residents of Ta Dar U had to accept the inevitable: move or be washed away.
Dismantling their wooden homes, they relocated several kilometres inland, away from the fertile fields they had cultivated for decades.
"Where we now see water, our farming land used to be," said farmer Tint Khaing. "It was very big, nearly three hours' walking distance. We all lost our farmland to the sea."
The ruins of a monastery are seen after a riverbank collapsed into the water in Ta Dar U village, Bago, Myanmar, Feb 6, 2020. REUTERS
Environmentalists consider Myanmar to be particularly vulnerable. It was among the top three countries affected by extreme weather between 1998 and 2018 on the Global Climate Risk Index, published by environmental think tank Germanwatch.
Sea levels are projected to rise about 13 cm (5 inches) by 2020, putting at risk about 2.5 million coastal residents, said Myint Thein, a US-based groundwater consultant and member of Myanmar's natural water resources committee.
"Flooding will be worst during the rainy season and high tide, dragging salty water up into the land," he said.
Students pray at a makeshift school in Ta Dar U village in Bago, Myanmar, February 6, 2020. Photo taken on Feb 6, 2020. REUTERS
After their homes fell into the sea, the people of Ta Dar U, mostly rice farmers, scattered across the delta.
Saltwater contaminated their lands and they were forced to take up new occupations, with little success.
Myo Zaw, 15, stands amid the ruins of a monastery after the riverbank is was located on collapsed into the water in Ta Dar U village,Bago, Myanmar, Feb 6, 2020. REUTERS
"If the erosion continues at this rate, the future of the students will fade as well," said Myo Min Thein, the sole teacher at a makeshift school, who said he is struggling to teach the 26 students, ages 4 to 14, by himself.
Myanmar's climate change department has drafted plans to address rising waters but is not involved in resettling those displaced, deputy director Thin Thuzar Win told Reuters.
A Buddhist statue is seen at a temporary shelter after a monastery collapsed into a river in Ta Dar U village, Bago, Myanmar, Feb 5, 2020. REUTERS
Low-lying villages should be moved immediately to areas at least 7 metres (23 feet) above sea level, said Myint Thein.
"It will be costly but it must be done," he said. "The environment has changed, so the people must learn to adapt."