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Faster implementation of power projects needed in Chin State

The Chin State government wants to prioritise a number of hydropower projects in order that more development can come to the state, which is the poorest in the Union.

The state, bordering Bangladesh and India in western Myanmar and traversed by a number of mountain ranges with fast-flowing rivers, has seen much interest from foreign investors in building hydropower plants.

According to the state government, more than 30 such projects have been proposed or are undergoing feasibility studies. Companies from China, France and Norway have expressed interest in such projects.

Among them, a Chinese company signed five MOUs with the state government in early July to carry out studies in Hakha, the state capital, as well as Matupi, Htantlang and Paletwa townships to build 30MW hydropower plants while a Norwegian company has so far invested US$50 million in three medium-scale hydropower projects of under 30MW to be built in Kanpetlet.

Chin State Minister of Electricity, Industry and Roads U Soe Htet said the state’s low access to electricity and poor infrastructure has contributed to its underdeveloped status, especially in education and healthcare.

He noted that the national grid does not cover even a quarter of the state. Of the state’s nine townships, five have access to the grid but only 16pc of households actually have access to electricity. Other townships get diesel-powered electricity for two hours a day.

Of the remaining four townships, a transmission line from the national is currently under construction to Matupi and would be operational in 2019-20. The cost of this construction is K12.3 billion funded by the state.

“It will cost an additional K6 billion to build transmission lines to the other townships but the state cannot afford it,” U Soe Htet said.

To speed things up, he said the state government proposed that two large hydropower projects, a 380MW plant in Falam and a 622MW plant in Paletwa, be given priority after having stalled.

The Falam plant, estimated to cost US$800 million, was undertaken by Beijing-based China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd and local partner Sein Enterprise but stalled after 15pc of the project was completed. Sein Enterprise is trying to restart the project.

As for the Paletwa plant, the Union government rejected a second survey carried out by a Thai company after an earlier survey by a French company and the project is in limbo after the MoU signed more than two years ago lapsed.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Electricity and Energy’s department of hydropower implementation managing director U Chit Toe said the Falam project is still under consideration, with due diligence on technical and financial details that still need to be done.

“The project cannot be restarted immediately, just like the other hydropower plants that have been proposed, there is a need to look at the pricing structure of the power supply and the government’s budget too,” he said.

Meanwhile, U Soe Htet insisted that the Union government should open up the projects to private investors by relaxing restrictions as it takes time for the plants to be built. “If the projects are implemented now, it will be another five or six years before they generate electricity,” he said, adding that the Union government is responsible in ensuring that electricity is accessible nationwide. – Translated

Source: Myanmar Times

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