- By Pyin Du War
Putao, the northernmost town in Kachin State, is renowned for its green rainforests, icy mountains and crystal white waters, but not for its access to electricity because of its remote location and distance from the power grid.
But that will soon change with an ambitious hydropower project that will provide much-needed electricity.
The consumption rate of electricity in Myanmar is increasing by at least 15 per cent each year, and it is estimated that Myanmar will consume about 4,531 megawatts of electricity by 2020-2021. Currently, the annual total electricity production is 3,189 megawatts, with 1,342 megawatt still needed.
That’s why arrangements are being made to produce 439 megawatts from three power plants for the year 2018, 750 megawatts from four power plants for the year 2019, 260 megawatts from three power plants for the year 2020, 971 megawatts from five power plants for the year 2021, and 891 megawatts from five power plants for the year 2022. These power plants can produce 15 per cent from hydro power production, 18 per cent from power plants based on Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO), 30 per cent from power plants using Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), and 5 per cent from solar power plants.
Power generation in Kachin State
Kachin state has become the major electricity-producing region in Myanmar, and in Putao Township, which is remote and far away from the national grid, a 3.2MW upper Namhtwam hydroelectric plant is under construction. Posco Daewoo is investigating the possibility of setting up a 5MW Solar Power Plant on Manaung Island. In other states and regions, a mini-grid is constructed and power distributed through 32 mini hydroelectric plant projects and a solar power plan.
Upper Namhtwam hydropower project
The Namhtwam hydropower project is located on the Namhtwam Creek seven miles southwest of Putao. Putao and Machanbaw townships are difficult to reach by road, and there was only a small hydropower station built in 1987 which can generate 200 KW of power. The Upper Namthwan hydropower project was built for electrifying Putao and Machanbaw Townships in Kachin State, and will initially deliver 800 KW to its targeted areas, according to the Department of Electric Power under the Ministry of Electricity and Energy.
The facility will have the capacity of generating 3.2 MW when finished, and will be able to light four quarters and other villages in Putao and Machanbaw Townships. Seventy per cent of the construction process for the project is finished, and almost 100 per cent of Voestalpine machineries ordered from Austria have arrived.
The Department of Electric Power said that it planned to implement the hydropower project because 200 KW is only enough to electrify a single ward. Therefore, this upgrade project was necessary. Surveys were conducted in Putao region from March to June in 2014 by the department’s engineers.
Authorities have made efforts to work on the water control gate and machineries. Four generators, each of which has the capacity of generating 800 KW, will be installed, and will be able to generate 3.2 MW in total. This hydropower project will generate electricity using water flow, and will include one concrete spillway at 141 feet in length, and 41 feet wide. It will have one concrete tunnel inlet at 7,546 feet long, 12.6 feet wide and 10 feet high. The upstream reservoir is 98.6 feet long, 29 feet wide and 50 feet high. It has a 132 foot long, 5 foot wide steel pressure shaft. There is also one power station that is 132 feet wide, 29 feet wide, and 50 feet high. The Ministry of Electricity and Energy aims to produce more electricity and distribute sufficient electric supply to local residents in the region.
Putao is a picturesque town situated in a valley between snow-capped mountains 1,429 ft above sea level and 210 miles north of Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state, which is rich in exotic nature and culture. Putao has a monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate with very high amount of precipitation throughout the rainy season.
Many orchid lovers are attracted by the so-called “Black Orchid” that can be found in the mountains east and west of Putao.
It is one of the destinations where tourist can observe the natural and cultural heritage of northern Myanmar. The climate, environment, culture and topography make Putao a popular destination in Myanmar tourism. For adventurers and nature lovers, trekking and hiking around Putao is paradise.
Translated by Win Ko Ko Aung