By Maung Tha (Archaeology)
I still remember a lesson of electricity taught by science teacher Daw Than Than Myint while I was attending the middle school. The teacher said, “Lawpita presses a button to switch on lighting of the whole Myanmar and presses again to switch off.” From then onward, I have knowledge about Lawpita power station to supply electricity to towns across the nation.
In my childhood, the small town where I resided was supplied electricity from 7 am to 9 am and 11 am to 2 pm and 5.30 pm to 5.30 am the next day. Supply of electricity in the morning and afternoon sessions was for the local people to listen to radio. Generators from the power station were operated with diesel to supply electricity to locals. At that time, radios with the use of battery were not developed, so people relied on electricity to listen to radio. Various kinds of electronic equipment such as hot plate, television, computer, washing machine and refrigerator were not wider useful among the people.
When I arrived in Yangon, I was delighted at electrification for the city round the clock. Yangon City was lit the whole night. When I arrived at Lawpita where I saw turbines in Lawpita in non-stop generating hydropower, I was grateful to Lawpita power station.
Kayah State was named Kayinni area before Myanmar had regained the independence and it was also called Ngwetaung State in Myanmar literature. Silver Mountain (Ngwetaung) is located in Demawhso Township, 14 miles from Loikaw.
Kayah State is sharing border with Shan State in the north and Kayin State in the west and south. It is the smallest state among other states of the country. Kayah State on 4,529.56 square miles of area with 65 miles in width from the east to the west and 105 miles in length from the south to the north is formed with seven townships in two districts. Kayah ethnic people are the largest number in the state residing together with Shan, Inntha, Pa-O, Danu and Padaung ethnics.
Loikaw Township, the capital of Kayah State, is at an altitude of 2,950 feet, constituted with 12 wards and 13 village-tracts. Biluchaung hydropower project site takes a position near Lawpita Village of Loikaw Township. So it is famous as Lawpita power station.
Thanlwin River is crossing more than 100 miles long area from the north to the south in Kayah State. Bilu Creek originated from Inlay Lake flows into Pun Creek passing the centre of Loikaw.
An isolated hill takes a position in the west of Bilu Creek. Shan ethnic people called it as Loikhaw in Shan language which means an isolated hill. Then, it changed to Loikaw. But, Kayan ethnic people call it Siridor till today. Siridor in Kayan language means the victory of village using bone of chicken.
Nine rocks with 387 feet in height are located between Pobbayon Monastery and Mogaung Pagoda in Mingala Ward of southern Loikaw. The rock is in shape of nine parts called Taungkwe in Myanmar language, Mawphye in Kayah language and Loifatet in Shan language. In 1948, Parliament Secretary U Sein and physician U Aye advised to name Thiri Taungtaw instead of Taungkwe. So, it was renamed Thiri Mingala Hill in 1970.
The famous Taungkwe Pagoda was built on Thiri Mingala Hill. Such a pagoda attracts pilgrims from various regions of the nation. Taungkwe Pagoda is a symbol of Kayah State. Pilgrims must climb up the hill along the narrow pavement between cracks of hill to the pagoda without using the lift. Everybody can enjoy beautiful scene of Loikaw from the pagoda.
We went to Lawpita via Loikaw. After paying homage to Taungkwe Pagoda in Loikaw, we proceeded to the eastern ward of Loikaw. Along the route, we saw vast paddy plantations as well as maize ones. Lawpita is in 25 kilometres distance from Loikaw. Along the way to Lawpita is flanked by greening and thriving crop plantations.
We were allowed to enter Lawpita after passing three inspection gates as the area is very important for security. Before entering Lawpita, we enjoyed scenic beauties from a view desk on the hillside.
A saying has been favourite among Kayah ethnic people, which goes: “Will it rain only when frog fries; will fish up only when it rains; will flooding happen only when only when fish ups; will elephants do pulling only when flooding happens; can timber be extracted only when elephants do pulling; and will the state be prosperous only when timber can be extracted.” In line with the saying, saw thick forests along the route to Lawpita. Kayah ethnic people were engaged in timber extraction on a wider scale.
Biluchaung Hydropower Projects in Kayah State rely on water sources of Inlay Lake to supply electricity to all areas of the nation till today. KTA Company of the United States of America conducted the feasibility studies in 1953 to generate electricity on Bilu Creek. Based on the report of such company, Nippon Koei Company of Japan made field trips to around Bilu Creek and submitted a proposal that if three power stations are built on Bilu Creek, they can generate 124 megawatts and that if Inlay Lake is improved as a reservoir, these stations can produce 240 megawatts.
As such, three turbines were built for Biluchaung No 2 power station in 1954 for the first phase and machinery installed in 1960 when it started generating 84 megawatts. Three more turbines were installed at the station for the second phase. However, it was necessary to build a reservoir to store water all the year round for generating electricity. Hence, Moebye Reservoir was built near Moebye Village in Pekhon Township, 18 miles from Loikaw, in 1967 and construction was completed in 1970.
Thanks to Moebye Reservoir, local people can make trips from Inlay Lake of Shan State to Pekhon Port in Kayah State along the waterway. The reservoir can irrigate 20,000 acres of cultivable lands and supply water to generating electricity all the year round.
The power station was installed with three 28-megawatt generators for the second phase in 1974. So, generating capacity of the station reached 168 megawatts. In extending the power stations, Biluchaung No 1 power station was built in 1992 to generate 28 megawatts and Biluchaung No 3 power station in 2014 to produce 52 megawatts. Three power stations generate 248 megawatts equivalent to 1,724 million kilowatt hours per year.
Upstream Biluchaung hydropower project is being implemented in the site, 14 miles and four furlongs southwest of Nyaungshwe. It is expected to generate 30.4 megawatts equivalent to 1,34.6 million kilowatt hours per year. Thanks to the project, it can prevent silting into Inlay Lake.
No responsible persons are allowed to enter the project area. The responsible persons are not allowed to take photos inside the station. As applications in advance of visitors to Lawpita are allowed, students and those from associations and organizations can pay visit to the project site.
While in Lawpita, I saw speedy, rough flow of water in Pun Creek daily. Water flow of Pun Creek which passes jungles and mountains is in high speed. Such strong massive water volume moves turbines of the power station to generate electricity round the clock.
Biluchaung hydropower projects electrifying the whole Myanmar for more than 50 years is expected to benefit the people for coming many years.
As I heard continuous sound of the current in Pun Creek among beautiful natural beauties of Kayah State daily, I remembered the sound of water flow when I left Lawpita.
(Translated by Than Tun Aung)