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Residents of Maday – an island off the coast of Kyaukphyu in Arakan State, and gateway to China for the Shwe gas and oil pipelines – are complaining that they still have not been provided the 24-hour electricity service promised to them last year.
According to civil society group Rakhine Social Network (RSN), Kyaukphyu’s local authorities promised the islanders a 24-hour supply of power when the pipelines became operational in July last year. It said the residents were also told that there would be no installation fee.
However, households on Maday have each been asked to pay fees of between 100,000 and 200,000 kyat (US$100- $200) for the installation of meter boxes to connect electricity to their homes, said RSN’s Tun Kyi. Moreover, he said, power is only available four hours a day.
He said only about 20 percent of the Maday islanders can afford the meter boxes and that electricity is limited to evenings between 6:30 and 10:30 pm.
The RSN said it has reached out to the Kyaukphyu district government administrator to call a tripartite meeting with the China National Petroleum Cooperation, or CNPC, the leading international firm involved in the trans-Burma pipeline project. The NGO said that the district administrator promised to facilitate the meeting but that they have heard no word about it for more than six weeks.
Locals on Maday previously staged protests against land confiscations, environmental damage and job shortages due to a loss of fishing plots and farmland as result of the Shwe Gas pipeline construction. They have constantly demanded job opportunities, compensation for land grabs, and a guarantee they would be connected to a continuous supply of electrical power.
Wong Aung, the coordinator of Thailand-based Shwe Gas Project, which has previously opposed the pipeline construction, confirmed that the locals on Maday are mostly without power.
“The residents of Maday have tried to hold forums several times with the authorities and the company, but they always have excuses. Most recently, it was said that the delay [in supplying electricity] is due to technical difficulties in laying power lines.”
He said however, that despite a few teething problems with power supply, tens of thousands of residents in Kyaukphyu have been provided the 24-hour electricity as promised.
Neither CNPC nor the state Ministry of Energy could be reached for comment.