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The Arakan townships of Sandoway [Thandwe] and Taunggok are to receive electricity at equal rates to the rest of the country, with other Arakanese areas to be included within a matter of months or a couple of years, according to the state minister for electric power.
As the second least developed region after Chin State, Arakan lacks in infrastructure, and electricity is charged at higher rates due to the additional services employed to supply power. While Burmese in other states and divisions pay for electrical power at government-fixed rates of 35 kyat (US 4 cents) per unit, those in Arakan are charged a whopping 500 kyat per unit.
“Although the state government had planned to begin distribution of electricity at government rates starting from 10 May, the laying of electric cables has not yet completed and so the scheme has been delayed,” said Arakan’s State Minister of Electrical Power Aung Than Tin.
Only an estimated 30 percent of Burma’s population has access to the national power grid – and less than 7 percent among those living in rural areas.
The Arakanese port city of Kyaukphyu is an exception to the rule; most of its residents enjoy a 24-hour supply of electricity due to the city’s location as the gateway to the internationally-backed Shwe Gas pipeline project which transfers natural gas, and soon oil, from the Bay of Bengal to China. Plans are currently being hatched to construct a multi-billion-dollar special economic zone in Kyaukphyu.
With a loan from India helping to finance the venture, the Arakan State government expects to be connecting several urban areas to the national grid by December 2014, including Sittwe, Ann, Mrauk-U and Ponna Kyunt, with the towns of Minbyar, Yanbye, Buthidaung and Maungdaw linked up some time in 2015-16.
Aung Tan Tin explained that difficulties remained in building infrastructure, and workers have already experienced problems erecting 230-KV transmission in mountainous areas and along tracks clogged with mud.
Without the resources to lay cables throughout Arakan and Chin states, the government previously had to enlist a private company, Phoe Thee Cho Co Ltd, to take over the project; hence the inflated electricity rates for residents of those regions.