Squatters may be a problem during Yangon Railway Station upgrade

Problems in relocating thousands of squatters occupying the Yangon Railway Station’s existing premises are expected to arise as upgrades and construction take place in the area over the next eight years.

The mixed development project will involve the construction of 27 new buildings including office towers, condominiums, hotels, serviced apartments, a public park and museum.

The project area extends from the north of the Yangon Railway Station along Bo Min Yaung Street, to the east along Theinbyu Street as well as along Bogyoke Street to the south and along Sule Pagoda Road to the west.

Many employees of the railway now live in Mee Ya Htar ward on Theinbyu Street. According to official data, a total of 528 households, or 4,353 residents, now occupy 136 homes in the area.

Unofficially though, there are at least 2-4 families of squatters occupying each building provided for official railway staff. In fact, the number of squatters could constitute about two thirds of the total number of people now living in Mee Ya Htar, one anonymous staff member told The Myanmar Times. These squatters come and go, and some have lived there for two decades.

New housing

So far, $50 million has been allocated by the Central Transport Development Consortium (CTDC), the project developer, to build 700 new residences for the railway employees.

“Since we opened the tender for the project, there was a plan to relocate the civil servants into government housing around the railway compound,” said Major Soe Moe Aung, who is in charge of the Yangon Railway Station. The new units will be constructed in Ahlone, Kyeemyindine, Thingangyun, Kanbae, Parami and Ywarthargyi townships.

However, no announcements or plans have been made regarding the relocation of those squatters. As such, some railway staffers expect problems to arise once relocation of the residents commences after construction begins later this year. “As civil servants, we just live where we are relocated. But there are many people who are unofficially renting rooms here and they can be in trouble once the developers start to relocate us,” a railway employee told The Myanmar Times.

Concerns are already mounting among the squatter community. Ma Aye Aye Khine, 40, who has been unofficially renting a room at the Theinbyu Railway Staff Quarter since 1997, is one of them.”In the past, my husband drove a trishaw and we lived depending on his income only. Now, my two daughters grown up and they are working at a restaurant nearby. It will not be easy for us to move after we have lived here for 20 years or so. We can find a place not far from downtown with a monthly rent of K50,000. But I am worried about how we can afford it,” she said.

It isn’t just illegal residents like Ma Aye Aye Khine who’ll be affected by the construction works and upgrades. The No 5 Middle School at Mingalar Taungnyunt township, which has 250 students from kindergarten to fourth grade, will be forced to relocate too, one of the teachers told The Myanmar Times.

“We’re discussing where to relocate the school with the Ministry of Education. We’ve also made plans to construct a school near a railway staff quarter and continue teaching the students. But, the location is still being considered,” said Major Soe Moe Aung.

“Meanwhile, Yoma Bank and some shops on Bogyoke Road are occupying rented properties so if they have to move, they can. When the construction blueprint comes out, details about which section will have to move first will be revealed,” said Major Soe Moe Aung.

New project

Whatever the case, construction is scheduled to start from mid-2018 onwards. The $2.5 billion contract to redevelop the 25.7 hectares (63.5 acre) prime site around Yangon Central Railway Station was awarded to CTDC last week.

CTDC comprises local company Min Damma Company with 40 percent stake together with Singapore-listed developer Oxley Holdings and China’s Sino Great Wall with a 30pc stake each. CTDC was selected among 18 other bidders from 14 countries which participated in the tender of the project. The tender process took nearly three years to complete.

Another consortium involving Singapore-listed Yoma Strategic Holdings and Myanmar-listed First Myanmar Investment had also applied for tender.

Source : Myanmar Times

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