May 3, 2011

International energy companies support local communities

Several international energy companies are showing that with great profits come great responsibilities by running socioeconomic programs to directly benefit the communities where they work.

Late last month the partners of the Yadana, Zawtika and Yetagun offshore gas projects in the Gulf of Mottama officially opened a 2.57-kilometre (1.6-mile) road in the Kanbauk area of Yayphyu township in Tanintharyi Region.

The road connects Kanbauk, Hlegone and Migyaungaing villages and was paid for by companies including Total E&P Myanmar, Unocal, the Petroleum Authority of Thailand Exploration and Production (PTTEP) and Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).

The total cost was US$250,000.

Mr Nicolas Terraz, general manager of Total E&P Myanmar, said the road project was exceptional because it brought together many different partners sharing the same desire to improve the local community.

“Today, I would like to make one wish: that the road will be used safely. This can be done by reducing speed, and by wearing a helmet when riding a motorbike. If this new road causes people to drive faster and put a threat on their lives, then we will have failed,” said Mr Terraz about the road, which provides quicker access to the hospital, market and school.

Ma Aye Aye Wah, a 42-year-old trader from Mawlamyine who lives in Kanbauk, said residents did what they could to aid the project.

“We didn’t provide any money but we shared some of our food with the workers while they were building the road,” she said.

The gas pipeline connecting the Yadana project to Thailand passes near Kanbauk village and is about 1 mile (1.6 kilometres) from Ma Aye Aye Wah’s house.

“Of course I’m worried that the pipeline might one day explode but I feel like I can trust the people managing it,” she added.

The Yadana project’s community development program started in 1995 with 13 villages and has expanded to cover 25 villages with a combined population of more than 31,000.

The program covers community development and communication, healthcare, education, economic development and infrastructure.

“We maintain an open communication with local people for long term development participation. We help implement village communication committees and give community development trainings for local participation,” said Dr Than Lwin Htay, head of the Yadana project’s socioeconomic department.

He added that all of the project’s socioeconomic programs are managed by Myanmar people, except the microfinance program that requires technical guidance from a foreigner.

The program’s public healthcare network allows anybody to visit its clinics and enjoy up-to-date medical treatment for free.

“A radio telephone communication network operates across the villages and allows residents to call an ambulance or fire truck at once,” said U Khin Maung Tin, a public health supervisor with Yadana’s socioeconomic program, who is stationed at Eindayaza village.

The program employs 10 doctors, with about six always at-hand in the project villages.

The results speak for themselves: People in the Eindayaza area no longer die from malaria and the number of infections has fallen by one-third since 1995, he said. Eindayaza village is also one of 14 that have recently had running water piped to them; the village now has 21 running water outlets to meet the needs of its 830 residents.

“Before, we only had four underground wells,” said U Sunday Maw, an Eindayaza resident.

He added that the community has also organised a water committee to maintain the new infrastructure.

A total of 441 people are involved in the whole socioeconomic program, including 355 who are community partners. Of the 86 skilled members, 58 are Myanmar nationals.

Yadana’s socioeconomic program costs $3 million a year, or 6pc of the project’s $50-million onshore construction commitment, Mr Terraz said.

Total exported 723 million cubic feet of gas a day (mmcfd) in 2010, sending 603mmcfd to Thailand, with the remainder diverted for domestic electricity production.

“We expect to export on average of 600mmcfd to Thailand and supply about 200mmcfd to the domestic market,” he added.

A new pipeline – to send gas to power stations in Yangon – was added in June 2010.

The operators of the Shwe gas project off the Rakhine coast, which include Daewoo International Corporation, ONGC Videsh Ltd, MOGE, Gail Ltd and Kogas Ltd, paid $260,000 to assist the building of a two-storey Basic Education Middle School at Kyaukpyu on March 26.

The Shwe consortium initiated community development in Rakhine State and Yangon Region in 2006 and focuses on education, healthcare, water sanitation, HIV/AIDS, social welfare and disaster relief.

“This is our commitment to conduct business in a socially responsible and ethical manner, to protect the environment and to support the socioeconomic development of the local communities,” said Dr Su Yeong Yang, senior executive vice president of Daewoo International Corporation.

In the 2006 fiscal year, the operators of the Shwe gas project dedicated $200,000 to socioeconomic development, upping that to $600,000 in 2009. Between November 2009 and March 2011, the Shwe partners have spent $750,000 on its socioeconomic program.

Source: Myanmar Times