Authorities keep eye on high-rises near Yangon landmarks

City residents have taken to social media to call for protection of the city’s best views, particularly of its famous pagodas.

Government officials involved in urban planning are keenly aware of the requirement to protect the skyline, adding there are mechanisms in place to check buildings above 12 storeys for a number of factors, including whether they crowd out the view.

YCDC Department of Engineering (Building) head U Than Htay said the department is working to preserve views of Shwedagon, the city’s landmark, but added that so far no nearby developer has submitted plans for a nearby skyscraper.

“We will review all [tall] buildings that are very close to Shwedagon pagoda,” he said.

If buildings are over 12 storeys, they must be approved by YCDC’s Committee for Quality Control of High-rise Building Projects.

U Soe Thein, a Union Minister of the President’s Office, has also waded into the discussion of tall buildings near Shwedagon. In response to reporters’ questions, he said it is ultimately up the Yangon Region’s chief minister to limit tall buildings near Shwedagon.

Local officials, however, say that Yangon-area approval is often the last step for large scale developments.

YCDC urban planner U Toe Aung said that developments must first receive approval from the Myanmar Investment Commission and related ministries, a process which does not involve Yangon-level approvals.

“Projects usually don’t initially consult with YCDC,” he said. “After they receive Myanmar Investment Commission approval, they then make proposals to us. Sometimes the proposals are different from the real plans, but we negotiate with them.

Some experts worry that while companies may declare they are under the 12-storey height limit, it is possible some will try to exceed the height. U Kyaw Latt, an advisor in urban planning, said he is not just worried about preserving views of Shwedagon, but other of Yangon’s heritage pagodas as well.

Perhaps the most prominent development currently underway near Shwedagon is Dagon City 1, a project located on Zoological Garden Road near the U Htaung Bo traffic circle.

Officials from its developers Marga Landmark say their project is not considered a high-rise, as “our design strictly adheres to the height restrictions imposed by YCDC taking into consideration the historic and cultural sites near to the development.”

“The restrictions permit us to build 11 floors above ground, while still allowing for our best international design and intended spacious headroom,” an official said in an email to The Myanmar Times.

“We have heard of the discussions around development projects near Shwedagon, and therefore we have recently re-engaged relevant authorities for a thorough analysis of our design. They are very happy with the care we have placed in devising a low impact construction approach, incorporating state-of-the-art techniques such as diaphragm walls,” the email said.

Some 50 percent of the area of the Dagon City 1 will be accessible to the general public, with the plan calling for green elements and breezeways, the email added. – Additional reporting Jeremy Mullins


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