Friday, July 21, 2017

Mayor: ‘New city’ going forward, imperative for Yangon’s future

The Yangon Region government is pressing ahead with plans in the commercial capital townships of Twante, Seikgyi Khanaungto and Kyeemyindaing for the “new city” development, in line with a broader master plan it has for Myanmar’s biggest city, Mayor U Maung Maung Soe told the regional parliament last week.

Cars cross a bridge in Twante township, one of Yangon’s outskirts slated for development in the “new city” plan. Photo: StaffCars cross a bridge in Twante township, one of Yangon’s outskirts slated for development in the “new city” plan. Photo: Staff

U Maung Maung Soe said the city would face enormous problems if there was no plan to expand options for housing, business and public spaces, given forecasted future population growth. The 2014 census put the Yangon Region population at nearly 7.4 million.

“We are drafting a master plan under the instruction of the chief minister,” said the mayor on November 4. “We honour the improvement of living standards for people more than [we are concerned with] the companies who won the tenders for the new city. If these companies cannot implement our master plan, we will work together with other companies.”

Three companies won tenders in 2015 to develop the “new city” project, sited west of downtown Yangon. Development has not begun, however, with the National League for Democracy-led regional government ordering that the project undergo a review.

Also under review is a proposed new bridge that would span the Hlaing River to link the slated development with downtown Yangon.

The project is located on an 11,716-acre site bordered by the Pan Hlaing River, the Twante-Yangon Canal, the Hlaing River and the Hlaing Tharyar-Twante road in western Yangon, according to an announcement in state media last year.

The regional government last week also told lawmakers of plans to build a new port near Nga Yoke Kaung beach in Ayeyarwady Region. The government hopes that the port and its anticipated linkages to Yangon’s own port will increase foreign and domestic trade and spur development at the new city site.

“We plan to implement the international port south of Yangon city. If this port is implemented, the new city will be located in a strategic developing location,” U Maung Maung Soe said. “We are still continuing to implement the Yangon new city year-by-year with the intention of socioeconomic development. And the port project will help to extend and develop the southwest new city project.”

Yangon Region lawmaker U Kyaw Zin Oo (NLD; Twante 1) urged the government to be transparent in its implementation of the project, given the failure of its predecessor to adequately inform parliament of its plans in the past.

“We just learned the information about the new city project from the mayor today,” he said on November 4. “We should have known previously, but the government didn’t explain to us [legislators].”

Plans for a “new city” were first made public by Yangon Region’s then-chief minister U Myint Swe in 2014. The project was quickly mired in controversy after it was revealed that the little-known Myanma Satanar Myothit Public Company had been awarded the tender for what was then being billed as a US$15 billion development. Bowing to public pressure, the government announced that it would re-tender the project.