Pyapon District

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This article has been extracted from



Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts. Some units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.


Physical aspects

A sea-board delta District in the Irrawaddy Division of Lower Burma, lying along the Gulf of Martaban, between 15 40' and 16 41' N. and 95 6' and 96 6' E., with an area of 2,137 square miles. In shape it is a truncated triangle, the sides being the Irrawaddy on the west and the To or China Bakir river on the east, while the base is formed by the sea-coast, which has a general south- west to north-east direction. It is bounded on the east by Hantha- waddy District , on the west b> Myaungmya ; and on the north by Ma-ubin. The entire area consists of a vast plain, intersected by tidal creeks and waterways. With the exception of some aspects very sma11 areas caue(i kondans, the whole of this level is subject to inundation at high spring-tides, and a good deal is submerged throughout the monsoon period The kondans are narrow strips of land, about 4 to 10 feet above the level of the plain, on which the soil is dry and sandy. They are supposed to be the remnants of old sea-beaches. The rivers are all tidal, and form the southeastern portion of the netv\ork of waters by which the Irra- waddy finds its way into the Gulf of Martaban. That river, running bouthwaids to the sea, bounds the District on the west, except in one place where Myaungmya District extends east of the stream. It is naugable by river craft at all seasons of the year. The To river (or China Bakir) takes off from the Irrawaddy in Ma-ubin District, and runs in a south-easterly direction, separating Pyapon from Hantha- waddy. Four miles below Dedaye it spreads into a secondary delta, its two western branches being called the Donyan and Thandi nveis, both wide but of little importance. Into the To river itself (the eastern branch), at the extreme south-east cornei of the District, flows the Thakutpm or Bassein creek, a tidal waterway which gives river com- munication with Rangoon. In Ma-ubin District, about 20 miles below the point where the To river leaves the Irrawaddy, the Kyaiklat river branches off from the To, and flows in a southerly direction, past Kyaiklat and Pyapon, into the sea. In the latter part of its course it is called the Pyapon nvei. A few miles below Kyaiklat the Gon- nymdan stream takes off from the Kyaiklat river, and flows first south- west as far as Bogale, where it is connected by various creeks with the Irrawaddy, and thence almost due south into the sea at Pyindaye, under the name of the Dala river, Its lower reaches are sepaiated from those of the Irrawaddy by two large islands which aie covered with fuel reseives. Besides these more important channels, the District possesses countless tidal creeks the Uyin, Podok, Wayakaing, and others which convert it into a maze of muddy channels

The geological and botanical features of Pyapon are the same as are noticed under HANTHAWADDY DISTRICT. The soil is mainly alluvium and the jungle vegetation is largely swamp,

The tiger and the elephant aie practically confined to the uncleared areas in the south, where theie aie also herds of wild buffalo, wild hog, and hog deer. Crocodiles are not uncommon in the creeks, and turtles abound at certain seasons of the year on the sandbanks along the southern coast.

The climate, though damp and depressing, is healthy, and the proximity of the sea renders the temperature equable. The average minimum temperature throughout the year is about 65, the average maximum 95, and the average mean about 80. One of the results of the proximity of the Gulf of Maitaban is that the winds aie decidedly stronger than farther inland. The country enjoys a regular and copious rainfall, rather in excess of the mean for the delta. The annual average is about 95 inches, deci easing towards the north in the areas farthest removed from the coast.


The District as at present constituted is of modern creation, having been taken in 1903 from Thong wa (now Ma-ubin) District, which itself only dates back to 1875 Until recent times the country was a stretch of unreclaimed jungle, the only indications of an eailier civilization being in the south-west. The village of Eya, from which the Irrawaddy takes its name, is now an insignificant hamlet, though it must have been a place of no little repute in bygone days. Of historical remains there are practically none. The most ancient and reveied pagoda is that known as the Tawkyat at Dedaye, and even this is supposed to be not more than a hunared years old


Owing to various minor alterations in the township boundaries, exact figures for the population of the area now composing the District are not obtainable foi past years In 1881 the whole District formed little more than a single township of PU Thongwa, with a population of about 97,000. In 1891 this total had increased to about 139,000, and in 1901 to 226,443, a rate of growth exceptional even for Burma.

The distribution according to the Census of 1901 is shown in the table on the next page.

The only towns are PYAPON, the head-quarters of the District, KYAIKLAT, and DEDAYE The increase in the northern part has been normal , but in the two southern townships the giowth of population has been extraordinarily rapid, reaching 350 per cent, in the sea-board township of Bogale. Its rapidity is due to immigration into the low- lying waste areas, where fresh land is constantly being brought under the plough. The influx has been mainly from Hanthawaddy and Henzada in Lowei Bui ma, and from Minbu, Myingyan, and Mandalay in Upper Burma 3 but Indian immigrants are also numerous. Though the inland portions are densely populated, the southern tracts washed by the sea have comparatively few inhabitants, large areas in fact being absolutely uninhabited. Burmese is spoken by 200,000 of the inhabi- tants, and Karen by 15,000


Burmans form 88 per cent of the total population. Karens, num- bering about 15,000, inhabit the northern portions, especially the Kyaiklat township The Indian population is made up of about 2,100 Musalmans and 6,600 Hindus, and is increasing steadily. The num- ber of persons dependent upon agnculture is 74 per cent, of the total population. The number of fishermen is large

Till recently theie have been no Christian missionaries at \\oik, though a considerable body of Karen converts live in the Kyaiklat and Bogale townships The number of Christians in 1901 was about 4,900. Of these 4,800 weie natrve Christians, most of whom were Baptists.


The soil resembles that common to the othei lower delta Districts of the Piovmce. It is a stiff homogeneous clay, deficient in lime, but admirably adapted to rice cultivation. The greater part of the cultivated area is inundated, and a con- siderable portion is but seldom systematically ploughed, the long kaing grass with which it is covered being cut down and burnt, and the rice sown broadcast. As the rivers deposit large quantities of silt, the land in the immediate neighbourhood of their channels is at a higher level than the interior. During the rains the country consists to a large extent of vast lakes, whichpatches of higher ground appear as islands. Large areas of land between the mam rivers he too low for rice cultivation, and remain untilled swamps.

The mam agricultural statistics for 1903-4 are as follows, aieas being shown in square miles .


Accurate statistics of the area cultivated in yeais previous to 1903-4 are not available. It is estimated that in 1891 about 350 square miles were cropped, and this area had increased to 769 square miles by 1901. In 1903-4 nce covered 822 square miles of the total. None but kaukkyt (wet-season) ncc can be grown A certain amount of garden cultivation is earned on neai the liver-banks on the richer soil in the northern paits of the District, in Kyaiklat and Dedaye The gaidens cover 3,100 acres, the greater part being plantains, though coco-nut and betel-nut palms aie also giown The dam palm is cul- tivated along the sides of the creeks, in the southern paits of the District especially, covering 5,000 acies. The cultivation of tobacco is insignificant.

Little is done to impiove the systems of cultivation. Loans are not required for agricultural purposes, although they are taken by the cultivating classes from money-lenders for all sorts of extravagances, with the result that land is gradually passing into the hands of non- resident landlords. The laige aica of cultivable land still unoccupied and the scarcity of labour keep lents low at present, but the time is not far off when these conditions vull be less favourable

Domestic animals are not bred in any number: they aie usually imported, largely from Upper Bui ma. The moist climate and the swampy character of the land cause buffaloes to be used in pieference to kine, as a rule Goats are few, and ponies aie rarely kept, o^ing to the poveity of land communications.


The numerous fisheries, which have been described in considerable detail in a recent report by Major F. D Maxwell, yielded a revenue of more than i-| lakhs in 1903-4. The most impoi- . . tant of the inland fisheries he in the north of the Flshenes - District, in the area enclosed by the To, the Kyaiklat, and the Podok streams A considerable portion of the out-turn leaves Pyapon in the shape of ngapt (fish-paste). Tuitle-beds abound along the sea-coast in the south, and yield large numbeis of turtle-eggs annually. The variety of tuitle found is that known as the loggerhead, the green turtle does not frequent the Pyapon banks, of which the two best known aie the Thaungkadun and the Kamgthaung,


A considerable stretch of 'reserved' forests occupies 558 square miles in the southern portion of the Bogale township. The forests have been reserved chiefly as a precaution against scarcity of fuel in the future , they are tidal and contain no timber trees of any value. The chief forest trees found in them are the kyanan (Xylocarpus Granatuni), the kanazo (Hentiera minor), the kanbala (Sonneratia apetala), the pyu (Rhiwphora conju- gata), the laba (Bignonia\ and the tamu (Sonneratia acida), all tropical mangrove forest trees. The thinbaimg (Phoenix, paludosa)^ a small palm, grows freely in the District, and is largely used for building purposes. On the coast a common species is the tayaw (Ecccoecaria Agallocha\ The dam palm (Nipa fruhcans) and the danon (Calamus arborescens) abound, and are extensively used for thatching. The receipts from the extraction of cane and othei minor forest products amounted in 1903-4 to Rs. 12,700.

Trade and Communication

Within recent years attempts have been made to establish rice-mills in the District. At present five are working in the neighbourhood of the principal towns, but it remains to be seen Trade and w h e ther they will prove remunerative. Besides rice- milling and the preparation of ngapi no manu- factures of importance aie carried on, and no arts are practised.

Paddy and ngapi are exported, the first mainly to Rangoon, the latter principally to Upper Burma, Horns, hides, and firewood are sent to Rangoon, the latter in veiy considerable quantities, The imports comprise the usual necessaries of an agiicultural population silk and cotton goods, kerosene oil, sugar, salt, jaggery, pickled tea, areca-nuts, hardware, and crockery. The trade is all carried by water, and a large share of it is in the hands of the Iirawaddy Flotilla Company,

The netwoik of rivers a.nd creeks spreading over the District gives ample means of communication, both internal and external. Outside the towns there are no roads, but a beginning will shortly be made in road-making. Launches ply daily between Rangoon and Pyapon via Dedaye and Kyaiklat, between Yandoon (in Ma-ubm District) and Pyapon via Ma-ubm and Kyaiklat, and between Kyaiklat and Bogale via Pyapon Bi-weekly steamers run from Rangoon to Moulmeingyun m Myaungmya District through Dedaye, Kyaiklat, Pyapon, and Bogale, as well as from Rangoon to Kyaikpi, in Myaungmya District, and to Pyindaye in the dry season. All these services are maintained by the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company The waterways swarm with native craft, and at most of the principal towns ferries across the rivers are con- trolled by Government.


The District is divided into two subdivisions : Pyapon, comprising the PYAPON and BOGALE townships , and Kyaiklat, comprising the KYAIKLAT and DEDAYK townships. These are staffed b> the usual executive officers, under whom are 393 village headmen and 4 circle thugyis. For public works purposes the District forms a subdivision of the Myaungmya division, which also includes Ma-ubm and Myaungmya Districts, The forests lie within the Henzada-Thongwa Forest division, the head-quarters of which are at Henzada.

Pyapon is in the jurisdiction of the Judge of the Delta Division, who tries sessions cases. The civil work of the District is dealt with by a District Judge, who has his head-quarters at Myaungmya, and also has jurisdiction in Ma-ubin District Two officers have been appointed judges of the Bogale-^/w-Pyapon and the Kyaiklat-^;-Dedaye town- ship courts respectively, to relieve the township officers of civil work. Otherwise the local executive officers preside ovei their respective courts, civil and criminal. As in other parts of the delta, crime is considerable, burglaries, thefts, and serious assaults being common. Violent crime, such as dacoity and robbery, is moie rife than in the non-delta Districts, but shows signs of diminution. Cattle-thieving, an important profession in the Districts noith and east of the delta, is not common, the reason being that the conformation of the country does not lend itself to the operations of the cattle-lifter. In a large number of cases of serious hurt clasp-knives are used, and special efforts are being made to bring about a diminution of this form of crime.

Under Burmese rule the method of assessment was, as in the rest of the delta Districts, based on the number of yoke of plough animals used by the cultivator, amounting roughly to half the gross out-turn. In 1868 acre rates were introduced, varying from R. i to Rs. 2-4 per acre; and these continued in force till 1891-2, when the greater part of the District was brought under settlement, Nearly the whole of the Bogale township was omitted from this settlement, the few cultivated patches in the huge jungle spreading over this township continuing to be taxed at a uniform rate of Rs. 2-4 per acre. Over the rest of the District rice land was assessed at rates varying from Rs. 1-12 on the poorest inundated lands to Rs. 3 on lands which were always certain of good crops, the average being Rs, 2-6. Miscellaneous crops were taxed at the uniform rate of Rs. 2, and orchards at a uniform rate of Rs. 3 per acre, except in a few restricted localities where the rate was only Rs. 2-4. Finally, in 1901-2 the Bogale township was brought under settlement, and the following rates were fixed : on rice land, from Rs. 2-8 to Rs. 5 per acre } on miscella- neous cultivation, Rs. 2-4 ; on orchards, Rs. 2-4 ; on betel-vines, Rs. 10 on dani palms, Rs. 5 per acre.

Rapid as has been the growth of population and cultivation, it has been slower than that of the revenue. The following table shows, m thousands of rupees, the development of the revenue since






Land revenue

Total revenue










The total revenue in 1903-4 included Rs. 2,11,000 from capitation tax, Rs. 1,86,000 from fisheries, and no less than Rs. 2,86,000 from opium and excise.

The income of the District cess fund, derived mainly from a 10 per cent, cess on the land revenue, and applied to various local needs, amounted to 1-4 lakhs in 1903-4. The only municipality is PYAPON KYAIKLAT is at present under a town committee, but is shortly to be constituted a municipality

The District Superintendent of police has the services of two Assistant Superintendents, who are in charge of the subdivisions of Kyaiklat and Pyapon. Under these officers are 4 inspectois, 6 head constables, 26 sergeants, and 134 constables. No mounted men are maintained, but 2 sergeants and 12 men are employed in boats. The civil police are distributed in 5 police stations and 4 outposts, as well as at head-quarters. The military police number 150, of whom 80 aie at head-quarters, 25 at Kyaiklat, 15 each at Dedaye and Bogale, and 15 at Kyonmange on the To river, about 9 or 10 miles above Dedaye. No jail has been built at Pyapon, and prisoners are sent on conviction to the Ma-ubin jail.

The percentages of males and females able to read and write in 1901 were returned at 52 and 9 respectively, the proportion for both sexes being 36 ; but in leahty the condition of education is decidedly back- ward, and the people aie apathetic. The \\eakness of the schools is particularly marked in the case of the monastic seminaries, and is attributed to the loss of influence due to the deterioration in character of \hzpongyis The lay schools are at present somewhat disorganized, but the recent improvement which has taken place in the position of lay teachers will, it is hoped, bring about an improvement m this class of education The most important Buddhist lay schools are at Pyapon and Kyaiklat ; and the most advanced monastic seminaries are those at Bogale, Dedaye, Thegon, and Kyaiklat, which teach up to the middle school standards. In 1904 the District contained 6 secondary, 10 1 primary, and 180 elementary (private) schools, with an attendance of 5,ni boys and 991 girls. The public expenditure on education amounted to only Rs. 7,000 This total was made up of Rs. 4,800 from the District cess fund and Rs. 2,200 from the Pyapon town fund.

There are three hospitals and a dispensary, with accommodation for 46 in-patients. In 1903 the number of cases treated was 18,733, including 692 m-patients, and 339 operations were performed. The income amounted to Rs. 10,500, all but Rs. 500 from subscriptions being derived from the District cess fund.

In 1903-4 the number of successful vaccinations was 1,883, repre- senting 9 per 1,000 of the population. [H. M. S. Mathews, Settlement Report (1893) ; Major F. D. Maxwell, Report on Inland and Sea Fisheries (1904).]

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