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Maday islanders see the light

Maday island, off the coast of Kyaukphyu in Arakan State (Photo: Google Maps)

Residents of Maday – an island off the coast of Kyaukphyu in Arakan State, and the gateway to China for the Shwe gas and oil pipelines – are now able to enjoy four hours of electricity a day for the first time.

The power supply comes as part of a compensation deal from the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) for damage to farmland and the local environment, caused by construction of the Shwe gas pipeline, which began operations in July 2013.

Residents had originally been promised 24-hour electricity access, but have had to fight for even a few hours a day.

Htun Kyi, chairperson of the non-governmental Madaykyun All-Sector Development Committee, said that power has started to be transferred to local homes over the past week.

“The installation of electric meter boxes is nearly complete, and the power was switched on three or four days ago. All of the 552 meter boxes that we asked for are being provided,” said Htun Kyi.

Households in Maday had previously 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.

“Residents who have not yet built their homes did not make the initial application for electricity. Those without ID cards haven’t got the meter boxes yet either, but we will speak to CNPC for them too,” he added.

Previously, most residents on the island were unable to access electricity, with only a wealthy few able to afford power generators.

One resident said that the only use of electricity she had seen was at local home cinemas, and that she had no idea what else to use it for.

The residents will now be able to enjoy electricity between the hours of 6pm and 10pm.

Maday has four villages – Ywama, Padeinse, Kyauktan and Pyein – and has around 500 households in total.

The Maday islanders have staged protests several times since 2013, demanding compensation from CNPC for land confiscations, environmental damage and job shortages due to a loss of fishing plots and farmland as result of the pipeline construction.

Their demands have included a supply of electricity, reimbursement for damaged farmland, permission to fish freely around the island, and to have local roads and other affected infrastructure repaired.

Htun Kyi was amongst ten Maday residents who were jailed for three months each in September 2013 for leading the protests demanding damages.