Myanmar Officials Grapple With Electricity Outages

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A Myanmar fishmonger uses battery-powered portable lamps as she waits for customers at a night market in Yangon,  Sept. 26, 2013.
A Myanmar fishmonger uses battery-powered portable lamps as she waits for customers at a night market in Yangon, Sept. 26, 2013.

A high-ranking Myanmar region official pledged Tuesday to stabilize Yangon region’s power supply within six months to a year in light of a growing number of electricity shortages through a “100-day” plan to make equipment repairs and replacements.

Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein attributed recent severe power shortages in the city—which consumes more than half of the country’s electricity—to soaring temperatures and pounding rain that have damaged underground power cables and cable towers.

He told reporters press conference at the Yangon Electricity Supply Corporation in the commercial capital that his 100-day plan to improve the power infrastructure includes fixing or replacing damaged polls and wires, replacing machinery, adding generators and transformers, and removing trees that obstruct electrical wires.

The regional government plans to build 150 new 200-kVA (kilovolt amps) electrical transformers within 100 days, he said.

“Speaking about repairs, we have to consider how much we can repair within six to 10 months,” Phyo Min Thein said. “We have to be careful. We are trying hard to fulfill the need at all times.

“We are responding immediately to foreign companies that want to help us with [providing] electricity,” he said. “They can come and inspect the facilities today to determine if repairs are needed.”

Though much work needs to be done, the repairs can be finished in about six months, Phyo Min Thein said.

“I would like to say that we are trying hard to best serve the public in the coming summer days,” he said.

Phyo Min Thein suggested that financing the work could pose a problem because much of the ministry’s annual 334 billion kyats (U.S. $281.3 million) goes towards employee salaries, he said.

Minister on the hot seat

In a related development, Myanmar’s parliamentary speaker Win Myint on Tuesday warned the country’s Ministry of Electricity and Energy about a nationwide power shortage, given the increasing frequency of blackouts in other parts of the country, and told him to solve the problem.

The ministry should keep in mind public complaints about the nationwide shortage of electricity, speaker Win Myint told Minister Pe Zin Tun, who answered questions from lawmakers at the National Assembly in Naypyidaw.

“I hope the ministry noticed the cartoons mocking the shortage, saying, “Electricity has been cut off so often in the past that now it doesn’t come that often,’” he said. “I want the ministry to be careful and pay attention to that.”

The comment was a reference to recent newspaper cartoons poking fun at the situation by pointing out that blackouts have grown worse under the new National League for Democracy (NLD) government that came to power in April. The NLD government combined the old Ministry of Electric Power and Ministry of Energy into a single ministry.

Khi Sithu, a lawmaker from Loikaw in eastern Myanmar’s Kayah State asked Pe Zi Tun for a plan to supply enough electricity to villages near the country’s main Balu Chaung hydropower plant.

Nay Myo Htet, a lawmaker from Kyaukteta township in Yangon told the minister that his constituents face health problems because of a water shortage and the lack of electricity.

Reported by Win Naung Toe and Aung Theinkha for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.





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