Terrestrial Tour: The Floating Gardens of Myanmar

Video Player

Video Versions

This segment provides viewers with a tour of the floating island agriculture of Inle Lake, Myanmar. 

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory ( https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/).

  • Photographs of Inle Lake courtesy of Dan Cooper (https://frustratedgardener.com)
  • Satellite image of Inle Lake: Operational Land Imager, Landsat 8
  • Photograph of water hyacinth courtesy of Nick Lubushko via Wikimedia
  • Photographs of farmers on Inle Lake courtesy of George Seielstad and Martin Michalon 

Written by Dr. Kate Porter and Margaret W. Carruthers based on content from the NASA Earth Observatory (https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/85606/floating-farms/
Designed by Dani Player

Farmland near a river.
Text, The Floating Gardens of MYANMAR
The globe, seen centered on Myanmar.
Text, Inle Lake, in central Myanmar (Burma), is the second-largest lake in the country.
We see the lake from above. It spreads long from north to south. It narrows in the south.
Text, But the exact area of the lake is difficult to measure. From space, the size and shape of the lake seem clear. But in fact, the lake is much larger than it appears.
A small area inside the lake is outlined, then the larger area of the lake is outlined and labeled ACTUAL SHORELINE OF INLE LAKE. The interior outlined portion is labeled OPEN WATER.
Text, The actual shoreline lies far from the open water.
The area between the open water and actual shoreline is highlighted in red and labeled FLOATING ISLAND AGRICULTURE.
Text, A unique system of agriculture on the lake makes the boundary between land and water difficult to identify.
Water hyacinth grows on the water surface.
Text, Inle Lake is an ideal habitat for water hyacinth, a fast-growing plant that is considered a pest in many areas. Water hyacinth can completely cover the surface of a lake, blocking boat traffic.
A purple and white water hyacinth flower among green foliage.
Text, The roots of the plant grow so tightly together that they capture sediment and other debris. Eventually, they become so thick--more than three feet--that they can support a great deal of weight.
A man stands on a jumble of vegetation on the water. Behind him lie a farm and buildings.
A man stands on vegetation interspersed with bamboo poles.
Text, Farmers on Inle Lake cut the hyacinth islands into strips, tow them to a central location, and secure them to bamboo poles so they don't float away. Then they cover the floating strips with soil and plant seeds on them.
Strips of floating gardens in the lake.
A man stands on a low boat among the gardens.
Text, These floating gardens cover about 25% of the lake surface, producing tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, gourds, flowers, and other crops that drive the region's economy.
A woman stands amid piles of green and red tomatoes in a storehouse. Many rows of floating gardens along the edges of the lake.