Chiang Mai – The Burmese Ministry of Electric Power (1) will commission the Ye village hydro-power project in December, billed as the biggest in the country.

“We will begin operating one turbine of the four for hydro-electricity. We will begin in December and run the turbines one after another in the following months. We are still unsure of the exact date but it might probably be the end of December,” Aye Aye Thant, Director Hydro-Electricity Department of the ministry told Mizzima.

For the commissioning of the hydro-power-project, several engineers from the engineering department were said to have reached the hydro-power plant.

The hydro-project on the Myittha River, located between Ye-Yamann villages, about 31 miles southeast of Mandalay city, is being constructed by the Department of Hydro Power Implementation (DHPI) No. (2) of the Ministry of Electric Power (1).

According to the ministry’s press release, the project cost is over US $ 600 million. While the US$ 200 million was taken as loan from China, the ministry has borne the rest.

According to Burma River Network, a Thailand-based activists group that monitors Burma’s hydro-projects — Hydro Power Generation Enterprise along with China International Trust and Investment Co. (CITIC) and Sinohydro Corporation signed an agreement in 2004 for the project and was later joined by five other Chinese companies.

The initial design of the project was by a Japanese company Nippon Koei. For details of the design and construction the Burmese government signed an agreement with a Swiss company Colenco Power Engineering in 2003.

The hydropower plant is 2264 feet wide and 433 feet high. It will produce an estimated 790 megawatts.

The project, once completed, is expected to supply electricity throughout the country through Kyaukse, Meikhtila, and Mandalay towns via 230 KV (Kilo Volt) cable lines.

Currently the Ministry of Electric Power (1) operates over 15 hydropower-projects located across the country’s Kachin, Shan, Kayah, and Karen states.

However, rights activists have expressed concern over the appalling human rights violations including forced relocations of villages, forced labour, and environmental degradation. Besides, campaigners also expressed fear of a possible break in the dams and its consequences for inhabitants and residents downstream.

According to a report by Xinhua, Burma’s current electricity generation is 1684 megawatts, and the statistics of the government shows that Burma consumed 6.62 billion kilowatts in 2008-2009.

However, Burmese, including urban residents of Rangoon and Mandalay say they are facing problems as electricity supply is inadequate. Residents of Rangoon and Mandalay, the two largest cities in Burma, said they receive electricity supply for only six to seven hours a day.