Industry backs 30-year Yangon master plan

Volume 32, No. 622
April 9 - 15, 2012

Architects, engineers and government officials are drafting a master plan for Yangon.
Pic: Kaung Htet

AFTER years of mismanagement and short-term planning that have resulted in a clogged, dirty downtown area and insufficient transport infrastructure leading out from the city, town planners have begun working on a 30-year master plan for Yangon.

Both public and private sectors are involved in the planning process, which aims to rehabilitate a city that has suffered under decades of mismanagement and poor planning.

The town plan has a nominal completion date of 2040 and aims to create a blueprint to make Yangon one of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant cities once again.

U Sun Oo, vice chairman of the Association of Myanmar Architects and a participant in the planning process, said: “I warmly welcome the drawing of a new master plan for the city.

“We can create a plan that will reduce chaos and create public spaces for people to enjoy,” he said.

“As far as I can see, there are no public spaces such as convention centres, museums and parks in the downtown area. And I don’t see that developers or planners are thinking of the long term, where the population will increase and pressure will build on streets and car parking.

“Town planning cannot be effective if we look only at the short term,” U Sun Oo said.

He added that the plan should use a multi disciplinary approach that incorporates infrastructure, socioeconomic and aesthetic needs.

“The greater town plan shouldn’t rely on a single disciplinary approach and must think in terms of physical planning and socioeconomic considerations as well,” he said.

He said participants in the planning process include officials from Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), the ministries of Construction, Social Welfare Relief and Resettlement, Science and Technology, Electrical Power, as well as the Association of Myanmar Architects and Myanmar Engineering Society.

U Sun Oo said urban renewal and expansion were key features of the plan.

“We can improve Yangon in two ways: The first is by urban renewal – demolishing whole blocks to make way for green parks or transport infrastructure. And to expand the urban area we need to build ring roads to better connect the centre of the city with Thaketa, South Okkalapa, North Okkalapa, Shwe Pyi Thar, South Dagon and Dagon Seikkan townships,” said U Sun Oo.

He said the expansion of the city should be centred on the central business district (CBD).

“But as far as I can see, the CBD can’t expand radically because of the physical barriers – the Hlaing and Pun Hlaing rivers and Pazundaung Creek. Bridges need to be built to open up places such as Thanlyin and Dala,” he said.

Instead, he suggested that the planning process select sub-centres beyond the downtown area such as Myaynigone in Sanchaung township, Hledan in Kamaryut township, as well as Insein and Mayangone townships.

U Sun Oo said the city plan should also prioritise safety and public health to mitigate the risks posed by fires, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

He added that recreational parks, gardens and playgrounds needed to be included in the planning process.

U Ko Ko Htwe, chairman of Taw Win Family Construction, said a cohesive town plan was essential for Yangon’s development.

“I welcome the plan to reshape Yangon over the next 30 years because the city is suffering from a lack of cohesive long-term planning,” he said.

He added that the plan should begin with the downtown area and expand in township groupings to form sub-cities.

However, he added that it would be impossible to tackle all infrastructure development at once and certain areas, such as Mayangone, Kamaryut, and Insein townships, would need to be prioritised.

“Priority areas should be developed first in five-year phases to develop key infrastructure, which will drive demand. And the next cluster could include Thingangyun, South Okkalapa and Tarmwe townships,” he said.

He said the city should be expanded to areas that already have some of the infrastructure needed to support large populations.

“Areas such as Dala, which are close to downtown, lack sufficient drinking water supplies. It would be better to develop existing townships,” U Ko Ko Htwe said.

He suggested that a new CBD be formed in Mayangone township.

“Making a new CBD in Mayangone and nearby could create a unique business environment, which would ease some of the pressure on downtown too,” U Ko Ko Htwe said.

U Ko Ko Lay, a director of Three Friends Construction, said: “I’ve heard that the respective government bodies are starting to implement a plan to upgrade Yangon’s infrastructure and it’s vitally important for the city and country.

“In my opinion, the first step should be to find a way to harmonise building regulations with practical considerations. For example, building regulations that require developers to build 5-foot-deep drains around sites and include parking spaces for every apartment are not workable at all,” he said.

U Ko Ko Lay suggested that for the plan to be successful, it would need to provide enough time to do adequate surveys.

“Accurate and detailed surveys need to be done on public transport needs and transport infrastructure requirements, otherwise these will always remain weak points,” he said.

“In my experience, there’s a long history here of weak surveying but for a major plan such as a 30-year citywide master plan I think we need to spend at least three years doing surveys to determine what’s actually required and where,” U Ko Ko Lay said.