AS THE POPULATION of Yangon keeps growing, Myanmar aims to prioritise decentralisation in the metropolitan area’s Strategic Urban Development Plan (SUDP), according to the Yangon City Development Committee.
Toe Aung, deputy head of the YCDC’s urban planning and land management department, said at a consultative workshop on the plan on Friday that the updated development plan supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) would encourage dispersing the functions of the urban centre to outer areas.
He said the city’s urban structure should accommodate its rising population. According to the national census in 2014, Yangon was home to more than 5.7 million people. Given an average 2.6-per-cent annual growth rate, the city’s population is projected to be around 10.8 million by 2040.
“We will try to decentralise by strengthening three growth axes along truck roads and railways and implementing three new towns in the suburbs on a large scale. Transport linkage [buses, railways, waterways, etc] shall be improved. We hope that new built-up areas will accommodate 5.2 million people so that we cope with the rise in population,” he said.
Toe Aung said detailed planning on three suburban new towns would be conducted soon. He considered easier linkage to public transport (such as urban rail and Bus Rapid Transit) and land suitability as the key points. The proposed areas are Kyee Myin Daing, Dala and East Dagon townships, but flood risks and land-development costs still need to be assessed.
Additionally, the plan will focus on sub-centre development to promote decentralisation. Five sub-centres are designed around 10 kilometres from Yangon’s central business district.
The proposed areas are Mindama (81 hectares), Thilawa (121 hectares), Yankin (81 hectares), Myothit (40 hectares), and Seikkan (40 hectares). They will accommodate an estimated workforce of 270,000.
Toe Aung said Yangon’s development should be based on six core areas – population, accessibility, infrastructure, flood resistance, earthquake resistance, and development financing.
“A developing area should have strong public transport linkages connecting built-up areas. We need to find the best way to supply water and power. We need a costly embankment and drainage system to minimise the risk of flooding. Deep-piling works are needed for earthquake resistance,” he said.
“Financing is the most important thing to be considered. Our estimated costs may become higher if we select low-lying areas for the development.”
According to the draft plan, Yangon aims to become an international logistics hub as well as a comfortable city under good governance by 2040. To realise the vision, international ports will be implemented along the rivers crossing Yangon. The city would be connected to regional development corridors and implement special economic zones and industrial development.
Despite attempts to decentralise, the city also plans to give importance to the downtown areas, particularly the conservation and preservation of colonial heritage buildings.
The Sule Pagoda area, Bank Street and Kannar Road will be the central zones for recreation. Mahabandoola Road will later become a platform for a pedestrian square, while unused warehouses will be renovated to create public areas for relaxation and amusement.
At the workshop, Toe Aung admitted that the committee was facing a lot of challenges on the implementation of urban development projects. Some notable obstacles include the difficulty of assessing real-estate prices, regulations on compensation, and how responsibility for land clearance is divided.
“There is a huge gap between the land prices set by the Internal Revenue Department and the actual market prices. In all the projects, tentative or permanent relocation of residents usually occurs. In this regard, compensation for relocation is required.
“Land clearance costs including demolition of existing structures, infrastructure development, and relocation of residents is basically paid by private firms, although the Construction Ministry supports negotiations with the residents. So division of their roles needs to be reconsidered,” he said.
Hlaing Maw Oo, secretary of the YCDC, said the plan was first drafted in 2013 and had been reviewed and updated since August to be in line with the new government’s policies. She said the plan should serve as a framework for more comprehensive master plans to make Yangon a better place to live in.
She said the YCDC had received support from experts at JICA, the Korea International Cooperation Agency, and the French Development Agency.
She also urged discussions with all relevant departments and stakeholders before the plan is finalised.
She said the SUDP and Yangon Region Master Plan were being drafted in parallel and were expected to be approved by Parliament in March.