Friday, February 6

Monks Supply Electricity Where Government Will Not

Electricity is flowing from two monk-led local development projects as the government continues to leave much of the rest of southern Burma without power.

The projects, in Chaung zone and Paung Townships, Mon State have both been organized by monks or former monks, and are now bringing electricity to over 600 households, with capacity for hundreds more.

“Our village has electricity now, because of the efforts of the monk and monastery donors,” said a woman from Dare village in Chaung zone Township, on Belukyn Island. “If we just hoped for electricity from the government, our village would never have electricity.”

The project in Dare was spearheaded by the abbot of the Mingalala Thu Kat Monastery, who organized a group of 15 laymen that purchased a generator from Rangoon in December. About 120 of Dare’s 200 households are currently drawing power.

“Paung Town has electrical wires from the government, but it is rare that we get any power,” added a resident of Paung Town. “That’s why some villages try to get electricity themselves. Even if they get electricity from the government, it is not enough power to do anything.”

The project in Paung Township is centered in Mu Naing village, where former monks from the local monastery raised money to buy a hydroelectric generator in November. The project has capacity for more than 1,000 households, with 514 currently connected.

Less than a kilometer away in Moulmein, Mon State’s capital city, residents have been complaining about the decreasing wattage of the power they receive. Last week, Mon State officials extended electricity to villages in nearby Mudon Township. They did so, apparently, without increasing the power output from Ngante station at Moulmein.

The wattage from the project on Belukyn Island, meanwhile, has residents raving. “The power supply is very good,” said the Dare resident. “We can cook, we can iron. We can use a refrigerator, fill batteries or even watch TV.”

Electricity in most parts of Burma is non-existent or inconsistent at best, with even major cities like Rangoon suffering from limited supplies and frequent outages. In Mon State, residents are often promised electricity contingent on bribes, but still fail to receive power.

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