As one of the most diverse countries in Southeast Asia, Burma, also known as Myanmar, enjoys a population that consists of a vast array of ethnic groups that collectively speak over 100 languages and dialects. Boasting powerhouse neighbors such as Thailand, India and China, Burma appears to be the perfect location in Southeast Asia to reap the benefits of neighboring economic success.
However, poverty in Burma stands at a staggering 26 percent, making it one of the poorest nations in the region.
With an economy that is largely dependent on agricultural development, it comes as no not surprise that poverty in Burma is twice as high in rural areas where nearly 70 percent of the population lives.
Further, only about 30 percent of Burma’s total population has access to electricity. The rest of the population still relies on firewood as their main source of energy.
However, Burma set forth a plan last year to reorganize their energy systems to stimulate economic growth in every division within the energy sector. Yet, progress has been slower than expected.
In order to speed up progress on Burma’s energy goals, Thailand’s Green Earth Power appointed Black & Veatch, an engineering and construction firm.
Black & Veatch will design and construct the services needed for a 220MW PV power plant to be built in Burma’s Minbu district. The solar plant would entail an investment of about $275 million.
With a great disparity in the number of people who are underemployed versus those who are over-worked (working beyond the 44 hour work week), the construction of a solar plant would redistribute and balance out the 60 million labor hours the nation works, collectively, every week.
In a recent interview with Clean Technica, Rick O’Connell, International Renewable Energy Director at Black & Veatch, said, “Electricity is an urgent priority in Myanmar and has serious implications on economic and social progress. As solar facilities can be built rapidly, it is an excellent alternative to quickly add power to the grid and ensure meaningful impacts on quality of life.”
Not only would this project help Burma’s government’s reach their goal to increase electricity production from the current 2,500 MW to 30,000 MW by 2030, it would also aid a nation where only 16 percent of households have access to grid-based electricity.
In the last year, Burma’s economy grew about 7 percent but a large percentage of the population still depend on agriculture and land ownership as their main form of employment. Since agriculture or land ownership alone is not enough to earn an adequate living in Burma, eliminating extreme poverty in Burma must start with guiding millions of impoverished people to participate in sectors outside of agriculture.
With energy projects underway and the hope of greater economic growth, reductions in the number of those living in extreme poverty in Burma is something to look forward to.
– Veronica Ung-Kono