Tue 8 Oct 2013
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
Many of the villages near hydropower plants in Karenni state are still facing problems attaining power for their homes and business. In Lawdalay village, only 30 out of the 80 households have electricity, even though there are electric power towers nearby .
“It is difficult if there is no electricity, especially for the students. They have to buy candles and batteries to study, so it is costly for them,” said a villager.
“It has been a big challenge for those who are nearest to the hydropower station. Residents there should have the opportunity to access water and electricity. This issue should be taken care of by the government while they are trying to transition to a better and more democratic country.”
The hydropower plants in state are also monopolizing the water supply. In some cases these problems have been ongoing for over 30 years.
Beluuchaung River, which has a hydropower plant, is the only water resource for villages located at its banks. The only way to get water to the households is by pump. After the water is diverted to a large holding tank, the water is distributed to residents by a network of water pipes.
Locals are getting increasingly upset by the lack of basic services.
“We have no electricity, no health care and no water here. Gaining access to water is the main thing for our health, now everything is difficult because there is no water,” U Soe Reh said.
Since the hydropower plants have lowered the water level of the rivers over the years, it has made it harder to pump it to the tanks. Now residents are finding themselves competing over what is left of a dwindling supply.
“It is difficult to get water. Sometimes we have to fight near the tank as there is no more left. We are used to quarrelling with each other. What if there is fire in the village? What are we going to put it out with? All the water only goes to that hydropower station when we don’t even have enough to drink,” U Soe Reh said.
In past years villagers survived by collecting rain water, but the last year the rain fall was too low, even in the raining season. Now some of the storage tanks are never full, and even empty.
U Tu Reh, from Lawdalay village, told the Kantarawaddy Times that the authorities only allow the water to be distributed to each household for part of the day.
“They only distribute water about one or two hours per day. That amount of water can’t cover the whole village. That’s the reason why we have to be in a rush. There are two tanks in my village. It never gets filled and it often runs out.”
Despite persistent water scarcities, residents must pay a monthly fee of 1500 kyats for a service that isn’t always available. Before the hydropower plants were built it was free and easy to collect their drinking water from the unbridled river.
“It is so frustrated for us to lose our land for building this station. They even distribute insufficiently. It is just a hurtful thing for us,” U Soe Reh said.