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With five hours of power, industrial zones continue to struggle

Days after major industrial zones in Mandalay and Rangoon began receiving five hours of electricity a day, factories continue to struggle to stay afloat after a month of operating off the grid.

According to Win Ko Myo, a manufacturer in Rangoon’s Shwe Linban Industrial Zone, his factory still runs on diesel generators for the majority of the day, while employees are unable to use all of the facility’s machinery.

“We have to run on power generators and are still incapable of operating heavy machinery as government supplies are only available from 7am to 12pm,” said Win Ko Myo.

“The generator uses up about four gallons of [fuel] per day and operating heavy machinery for a hour would take about 80 litres.”

On 6 May, the government cut electricity supplies to the country’s major industrial zones in order to provide the public with more power. On 30 May, major zones were supplied with five hours of electricity from state power plants a day, while small and medium-sized zones remain off the grid.

However, even with a few hours of power a day, manufacturers continue to rely on expensive generators to fuel their operations to fill orders they’re contractually bound to meet.

“If we close down due to power cut, our workers would be doomed,” said Win Ko Myo.

According to the manufacturer, employees from factories that have closed due to the cuts are struggling to feed themselves.

However, Aung Thein, chairman of Shwepyithar Industrial Zone in Rangoon, said other manufacturers are ‘getting used’ to power cuts that he deemed ‘routine.’

“People are used to this – they just have to improvise and make their product available one way or another,” said Aung Thein.

According to administrators at Rangoon’s South Dagon Industrial Zone-2, industrial zones that house large manufacturing factories such as Hlaing Tharyar, East Dagon and Dagon Port Industrial Zones are suffering greater losses under the power shortages compared to light industry facilities.

The cuts are expected to ease later this month as monsoon rains begin to refill the reservoirs that produce about 70 percent of the country’s electrical supplies.

In May 2012, after more than a month of massive power cuts protests kicked off in Mandalay and spread throughout the country to Rangoon, Monywa and Prome in what were some of the largest mass demonstrations in the country since the monk-led uprising in 2007.

While Burmese citizens endure daily power shortages during the hot season, the majority of the country’s natural gas is continuing to be sold to neighbouring countries.


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