Friday, July 17, 2009

Burma buys electricity from China

by May Kyaw

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – In an ironic twist, Burma is said to have bought 300 megawatts of electricity from the Sino-Burma border town of Ruili in China, to meet the energy requirements of its second largest city of Mandalay.

“Mandalay Division Electric Power Department Divisional Head, Daw Aye Aye Min said that they have sought electricity from China but they don’t know when it will be available,” an official at the Industrial Zone in Mandalay told Mizzima.

The electricity supplied from China will be distributed in both Mandalay Industrial Zone and the Mandalay urban area, which are currently receiving inadequate power supply.

The authorities said, once the electricity is supplied, Mandalay Industrial Zone, currently receiving five hours of power supply per day, will receive it for 10 hours.

The Mandalay Industrial Zone, where cars and vehicles are produced, has a demand for a minimum of 40 megawatt of electricity. But, it is suffering from a deficit of 20 megawatts.

To meet its electricity needs, the Mandalay Industrial Zone is said to be preparing to set up its own electric generation and distribution network at a cost of Kyat 300 million [approximately USD 300,000].

‘Sein Pan’, the industrial area, which was later turned into an industrial zone, over the past 10 years, received regular supply of electricity for the first three years. But later it came down to five hours a day.

“The power supply to our area is from 7 a.m. to noon for the first half of the day and from noon to 5 p.m. in the second half,” Myint Swe, the Chairman of the Industrial Zone said.

While the current electricity tariff is 50 Kyat per unit, it is still not clear how much will be charged for a unit of electricity, once power is bought from China.

Even as Burma buys electricity from China, it has signed agreements with Chinese companies to invest in 10 hydropower projects.

Despite the government’s claim that it will provide 24 hours electricity in 2009, all the cities including former capital Rangoon still face power cuts except newly built Naypyitaw, the jungle capital of Burma.

Even during the monsoons when electricity supply is normally high, residents of Burma’s former capital Rangoon, face shortage of power and receive it for only six hours daily. The city, under blackout, has to put up with sound and carbon pollution from private electric generators.

Chinese Hydroelectric power projects in Burma:

(1) Ye Ywa hydroelectric power project

(2) Paung Laung hydroelectric power project

(3) Salween hydroelectric power project

(4) Seven hydroelectric power projects on Irrawaddy River

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