Putao: Encouraging development tasks in the outlying region of Myanmar by Nanda Win
Putao in Kachin State is a landscape painted with a mountainous backdrop and home to several rare animals with its preserved natural habitats living harmoniously with several ethnic minorities in the region. Putao spreads across a total of 10610 square km and consists of 5 townships: Putao, Machyanbaw, Naungmoon, Hkawng Lamphu, Sumpra Burn.
As Putao is part of the Himalayas, the area is mountainous with nice flat land rare to find. Standing at an elevation of 1329 feet above sea level, the Putao Valley is 12 miles wide and 20 miles long with the mountainous surroundings, home to the famous confluence of the May Kha and Malikha in Kachin State. Putao is bordered by China in the East, Myikyina District in the South, India to its east and China in the North. Naung Mon Township is also home to the highest peak, Mt Hkakabo Razi in Myanmar at 19296 feet (5,881 m).
Popular tourist attractions
Putao is filled with natural scenery that includes ice-capped mountains, 7 storied waterfalls, historic pagodas, and rivers. There is Mt. Phonkan Razi, Mt. Hkakabo Razi and Gamlang Razi that is a stronghold for biodiversity in Myanmar, extraordinarily rich flora and fauna and colorful rare species of animals.
Mt. Hkakabo Razi is 164 miles away from Putao with no direct route. Hence, visitors often take the 12-day trek amongst the mountains, cliffs, caves, tunnels in extreme weather to arrive at the famous mountain. The challenge, however, doesn’t deter adventurers from around the world including residents in Myanmar to attempt the hike and sometimes, the peak.
Mt. Phonkan Razi and Gamlang Razi are located 65 miles from Putao. Transportation to the area used to be almost impossible. However, as new roads start to be built connecting villages, these also serve as a path for travelers who wish to enjoy nature and beauty unspoiled by man. Additionally, Kaung Mu Lone pagoda, located 14 miles from Putao is also another attraction that is a must visit and is open all four seasons.
Facilitation of transportation
Putao District is located 218 miles from Myitkyina and can be accessible by car (12 hours) or flight (40 minutes). It took travelers up to 20-25 days for this journey. However, ever since the construction of the Myikyina-Putao highway consisting of concrete roads and bridges, of 218 miles, the journey can now be made in less than a day. There are plans to expand and upgrade the road as well in 2020.
Furthermore, Hkawng Lamphu township, that is 132 miles from Putao used to only be accessible by a 9-day trek. However, since the construction of the Machyanbaw -Ma Gwa Za- Hkawng Lamphu road, the village can now be reached from the San Lot Chat peak via a 2 night 3-day trek. There are additional plans to construct more bridges and roads to ease access and improve transportation to and from the villages for trade and communication development.
Access to energy
The improvement of roads and the flights have drastically increased movement to and from Myitkyina and Putao. In 2018, due to lack of sources for energy, Putao only received 19 hours of electricity every day while other towns received as little as 3 hours. However, with the completion of the Upper Nam Htuan Hydropower project, 10 wards in Putao, as well as 4 in Machyanbaw, are now supplied with 24-hour electricity with other towns receiving at least 5 hours of electricity per day. These developments have greatly opened a wave of new opportunities for residents and increased the number of small businesses significantly.
The area is home to a variety of ecosystems such as the mountain ecosystem, forest ecosystem, grassland ecosystem, and inland wetland ecosystem. These systems house a plethora of wildlife and fauna that are sources of food, fresh water, and even medicine. These also provide a potential practical field for study for geologists, biologists, and botanists. Lastly, the waters, mountains, and animals serve as a great attraction for nature lovers for hikes, bird watching, rafting and other adventures in the area. However, it is important to preserve these by preventing hunting, mining, and forest fires.
Because of the nature of Putao’s location, it has been a very difficult area to reach and experience. However, from the constant and strenuous effort from the government starting 2015, the developments have greatly improved the everyday lives of the residents as well as introduced the beauty of the area to the rest of the world.