Yangon ‘new cities’ passed on to NLD

Yangon authorities have tried to launch a city expansion project, in various guises, for the past two years, but have met widespread opposition and made little progress.

The latest plan, to build seven satellite towns, was made public in July.

It was announced shortly after a multi-billion-dollar contract – awarded in 2014 to Chinese investors to develop 30,000 acres to the south of Yangon – was called off.

Only one of the seven tenders has so far been called – for the Southwest New City, an 11,716-acre site located between the Pan Hlaing River, the Twante-Yangon Canal, the Hlaing River and the Hlaing Tharyar-Twante Road in western Yangon.

More than 50 companies initially expressed interest in the project, but by the deadline for applications in September just three had followed through – Yangon South West Development Public Company, Business Capital City Development and Shwe Popa International Construction Company, a subsidiary of local conglomerate Shwe Than Lwin. The winner has not yet been announced.

Of the seven new towns planned, only the Southwest New City is likely to be approved by the current government, said Yangon City Development Committee urban planning chief U Toe Aung.

“As urban experts, we will put forward the Yangon 2040 plan and the new city development projects to the new government,” he said. “We may just be able to pass the Southwest project under the current administration.”

Satellite towns are part of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)’s Greater Yangon 2040 master plan. The plan aims to house Yangon’s population, as it doubles in size to 10 million by 2040.

U Kyaw Soe, head of the Southwest New City tendering committee and Yangon Region minister for forestry and energy is less certain the project will go ahead under the current government. He told The Myanmar Times a number of details still need to be ironed out.

“The project is under review,” he said. “We can’t reveal our plans at the moment, because we haven’t finalised them yet.”

U Tin Sein of Yangon South West Development Public said the three applicants met with the regional government and urban experts on December 10 to discuss their proposals in detail.

“They haven’t picked a winner yet, but they invited us to come and explain our plans before a panel of urban experts,” he said.

If the project is delayed beyond the current administration’s term, it should go ahead under the next government, he said.

“The new government must continue the project because it’s already been tendered and the companies have made plans.”

The incoming government must honor existing commitments, he said, particularly as the companies applying for the tender have each put up a K5 billion deposit.

Nevertheless, he said the project may be too big for a single company to undertake.

“It’s not easy for one private company to develop such a huge urban plan. A joint-venture developer would be better,” he said.

“This is why our company has asked for public cooperation.”

The focus should be on the project’s success, as the hopes of local residents are high, he said. “Villagers in the area have high hopes for this project, which is why we are inviting them to invest into the project and co-operate with us,” he said.

A number of villagers living in the area previously told The Myanmar Times they support the development.

“Local business is not good, but if a new city is built here, there will be many jobs,” said resident Daw Win Kyaing.

“Some of us are working in Yangon but it’s difficult to get there. Some are planting rice but the paddy fields are not growing well.”

Daw Nyo Nyo Thin, an independent Yangon politician, said if the new city projects will benefit the people, they should be carried out. However, this is unlikely to happen under the current administration, she said.

“I hope the new government will reconsider the projects, as the current plans were not drawn up in collaboration with urban experts,” she said.

When the new National League for Democracy-led government takes power in March, it is unlikely to take responsibility for all the projects the former administration left unfinished, she added.

“The new government will have its own considerations, and will choose which projects to continue and which to cancel.”

The Southwest New City project includes a number of legacy land disputes, so its implementation is likely to be more difficult than anticipated, she said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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