Myanmar to Upgrade Urban Infrastructure in State Capitals, Border Town

YANGON—The Myanmar government is planning to upgrade basic infrastructure and enhance urban management of three major cities in Mon and Karen states that lie along Japan’s planned East-West Economic Corridor for the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

Minister of Construction U Han Zaw said Monday that his ministry will take a leading role in developing the cities using US$80 million in loans from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and a $23.4-million loan from the Neighboring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA).

The proposed cities for the GMS Corridor Towns Development Project are the Mon capital of Mawlamyine, the Karen capital of Hpa-an and Myawaddy, a major town on the border with Thailand in Karen state.

Projects are underway to upgrade water sanitation, improve waste management and build capacity among civil servants in Mawlamyine and Hpa-an using the ADB loans. The Ministry of Construction also said there are projects to maintain historic buildings in Mawlamyine and draw up plans for a Hpa-an industrial zone and a Myawaddy-Mae Sot joint spatial development project.

The cities will use NEDA’s loans to carry out similar water sanitation, waste management and civil servant training projects in Myawaddy. U Han Zaw said the projects in Myawaddy will help improve economic conditions and enhance bilateral trade and cooperation between the two countries.

The minister of construction added that the state governments will help facilitate the projects.

Myanmar carried out a feasibility study on the project to upgrade towns along the East-West Economic Corridor with the help of the ADB.

Within Japan’s grand plan, Myanmar sits on two major economic corridors: the East-West Economic Corridor connecting Vietnam’s Dong Ha City with Yangon’s Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) via Cambodia and Thailand; and the Southern Economic Corridor connecting central Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand to the planned Dawei SEZ in southeastern Myanmar.

Japan’s grand plan aims to improve connectivity between Bangkok and Yangon and help businesses in Bangkok to extend their supply chains to Yangon and the Thilawa SEZ.

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is looking to build an inland highway from Thilawa to Bangkok as a transportation shortcut. Transportation routes from Singapore to Thilawa currently run a combined length of 4,000 km and take 21 days to negotiate.

Myanmar’s section of the East-West Corridor currently does not function as an international highway due to bottlenecks from one-way traffic, unpaved roads, traffic difficulties in the rainy season and weight limitations.

JICA plans to shorten transport time by constructing three bridges in Karen and Mon states—the Gyaing-Kawkareik Bridge, the Gyaing-Zathabyin Bridge and the Atran Bridge—as part of the East-West Economic Corridor. The Japanese development agency says it expects it will take one-and-a-half days to transport goods over 870 km from Thilawa to Bangkok.

On the Southern Economic Corridor, proponents of the planned Dawei SEZ say it is crucial for Japan’s GMS connectivity. The Dawei SEZ is an $8-billion project in Tanintharyi Region that includes a deep seaport and it would be Southeast Asia’s largest industrial complex.

Source: Irrawaddy

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