Towns in southern Arakan State are scheduled to connect to Burma’s national grid as early as next week, according to energy officials.
The towns of Taungup and Sandoway [officially known as Thandwe] were previously scheduled to light up in May under the government scheme but work-related delays pushed the project back a month. Zaw Myint, an officer at Sandoway’s Electricity Engineering Office, told DVB that installing transmission towers and other infrastructure took longer than expected.
“The construction of electrical pylons to Taungup and Thandwe has been completed, we just need to finish a little work at the relay stations,” he said. “We expect to bring electricity to the towns by the second week of June.”
He said his office is now accepting applications from locals who wish to receive power from the national grid and install electricity metre boxes in their homes. So far, about 1,000 applications have been submitted, he said.
Until now, residents in Taunggup and Sandoway have had to buy electricity from a private company, but at a much higher cost than in other areas in Burma that are connected to the grid. The fixed nationalised price in Burma is 35 kyat (US$0.04) per unit (for usage exceeding 100 units per month), but in off-grid Arakan, households were asked to pay around 450 kyat per unit.
Aung Gyi, an internet café owner in Sandoway, said that, although costly, the private electricity is reliable, and he expressed his concern at whether the government would be able to provide service at the same level.
Sandoway is the nearest town to Ngapali, Burma’s most popular beach resort and the venue for many foreign tourists staying at high-end hotels, almost all of which have their own generators.
“When the power goes out, the private company immediately sends technicians to fix it,” said the internet café owner. “But we are concerned that the technicians from the governmental department won’t be so efficient.
“As always, when it comes to the national grid, it may take hours for the power to come back on.”
The majority funding for this power project in Arakan was provided from the Union Government’s budget, but the state government contributed and India also loaned funds, said State Minister of Electric Power Aung Than Tin.
He said officials expect northern Arakan State towns such as Ann, Ponnakyun, Sittwe, Mrauk-U and Kyaukphyu to be connected to the national grid by August.
Thousands of residents of the port city of Kyaukphyu are already enjoying the benefits of 24-hour electricity since being hooked up to turbines after the internationally backed Shwe Gas project began pumping natural gas to China from the port in September last year.