Myanmar border towns shine with Indian power supply

| Sunday, April 10, 2016 - 17:11
First Published |
Myanmar border

Things changed when Manipur government started supplying power up to Tamu

Imphal: Night life in Namphalong and Tamu towns in neighbouring Myanmar near the international border has undergone a sea change following commencement of power supply by India.

There was so far no power supply in these important commercial towns, which have traditionally been conduits for consumer items from China and other South and Southeast Asian countries.

Things changed from Friday when the Manipur government started supplying 3MW of power up to Tamu, just across the border from Moreh.

A Manipur government official told IANS that power supply will remain uninterrupted during night. However, there is heavy demand for power during the day time also as it is a hot region.

(Also read: Myanmar releases 61 political prisoners)

Manipur's border town Moreh in Chandel district has so far been without reliable power supply. In fact, there is no night life in the absence of assured power. However, there used to be three bars at Namphalong market just across the international gate where visitors from India could hang around till midnight.

One could guzzle canned beer and dance to western music. As there was no power supply in these two commercial towns, people and shopkeepers had to depend on power generators and solar lamps.

Moreh, Tamu and Namphalong markets display a high range of solar lamps and power generators. Residents of the north-eastern region, who have to contend with dark nights, buy these items like hot cakes.

Teenaged Mary Chang runs a family shop at Namphalong. One of the items the shop stocks is bottled foreign made liquor and beer in cans. She depends on power generators for chilling beer cans and other edible items.

Mary told IANS: "Now that there is assured power supply, it will be convenient to run the business as I am told that I will get a power connection."

But other shop keepers and traders may not be as lucky as her.

In Myanmar, power connections and other government facilities are not given on mere asking for them and permission has to be secured from higher authorities. Though Namphalong has over 500 shops, hotels, kiosks and restaurants, only a few of them will get power connections, if at all.

About 30 years ago, Tamu -- about 20 km from the international gate -- was a nondescript, ramshackle village market with old and battered wooden shops.

People from Manipur had to trek the mountain bridle path and wade through a river during the lean season to reach Tamu since there was no road or bridge. However, a few years ago, it was transformed into a modern marketing complex the like of which is seen in advanced countries.

But it had so far been without power supply.

Chi and Suu -- two sisters who do not speak Hindi or English or Manipuri or any tribal dialect -- have been running a popular restaurant near Tamu.

In view of the language barrier, Indian visitors had to point to food items to order or for extra helpings. Since Indian Rs.10 equals to 100 Myanmarese Kyat, bills are always in figures running into thousands.

Using a Manipuri, who speaks chaste Myanmarese, as interpreter, Suu said the visitors had to be satisfied with generator-powered fans and most of the food items spoiled by night fall as there was no refrigerator. But now with power being supplied from India, shopkeepers like her stand to gain much.

An official said the power is being supplied in accordance with the commitment made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Myanmar.

Manipur itself has been facing power shortage. The only source of power is the NHPC-run Loktak hydroelectric project which generates about 65 MW although the full capacity is 105 MW.

Out of that, Manipur gets a negligible share of power since other north-eastern states to have to be given a due share.

Accordingly, Manipur has been buying power from various sources to meet its own requirements.

Lukhoi, a resident of Moreh told IANS that there has been a slight improvement in the power supply -- which used to suffer numerous outages -- following the introduction of pre-paid meter system in Manipur.

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