Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River


Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River
   Burma's largest river system; bisects the country in a north-south direction, linking Upper and Lower Burma. Its headwaters (the confluence of two smaller rivers) rise just north of Myitkyina in Kachin State, and it is navigable year round for a length of 1,448 kilometers (905 miles) between Bhamo and the sea. Over the centuries, the Irrawaddy has been the single most important geographic factor in central Burma's political, cultural, and economic integration: With the exception of Pegu (Bago), all of Burma's major historical capitals have been located on or near it, including Mandalay, Pagan, Ava (Inwa), Amarapura, and Sagaing. Rangoon (Yangon) is connected to it by the Twante Canal. Even after the introduction of rail, air, and highway transport during the British colonial period, it has been the country's main commercial artery. In the early 20th century, the Irrawaddy Flotilla Corporation operated the world's largest fleet of riverboats and carried nine million passengers a year. The first bridge to span the river was the Ava Bridge, built by the British in 1934 but heavily damaged during World War II; the Chinese built a second bridge near Prome (Pyay) in 1998. With Chinese assistance, the river is being deepened with dredges, making it part of a new transportation system reaching from Yunnan Province to the Bay of Bengal (including a highway connecting a port on the river with the coast of Arakan [Rakhine] State). Just upriver from Pagan the Irrawaddy is joined by Chindwin (Chindwinn) River; to the south, the Irrawaddy Delta, which empties into the Andaman Sea, is large and fertile, providing an ideal environment for the cultivation of paddy rice.
   See also Mekong River; Salween River; Sittang River.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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