Myanmar’s largest city is on track to become a “mega city” by 2040, according to speakers at the Urban Development Conference in Yangon’s Traders Hotel on May 6.
The Hledan overpass across Pyay Road, Yangon opened for traffic on April 10, 2013. [Photo Bo Bo / Mizzima] “The role of urban development cannot be neglected,” said Kyaw Lwin, the Minister for Construction, who noted that, as latecomers to modernization in the region, Myanmar “is eager to learn from the good and bad experiences of other countries.”
At the core of the Greater Yangon Strategic Development Plan, which has been partly funded in coordination with the Japan International Cooperation Agency, is an outer green belt with sub-centers in a 10-15 km radius around the city; the construction of special economic zones, such as Thilawa; the new international Hanthawaddy Airport; and, numerous affordable housing projects.
Two of the low-cost residential units—the Ayeyarwun and Yadanar Housing Projects—are currently under construction. These complexes are to be built through a combination of both public and private sector funds and be used as showcases for the rest of the country, said Toe Aung, deputy head of the city planning and land administration department.
“Yangon’s natural resources and strategic location are not enough,” said Min Gin, the director of the Ministry of Construction, who emphasized the urgent need to develop infrastructure and train government staff for the challenges ahead.
The urbanization rate in Myanmar is currently 2.9 percent with a low urban population of three out of 10 people compared with the global average of seven out of 10.
“The flow of people from the rest of the country to these parts will be tremendous if these city plans go ahead,” said Ismael Fernandez Mejia, president of the International Society of City and Regional Planners in a keynote speech at the event.
He recommended the preservation and renovation of Yangon’s old structures to save the aesthetics of the city; the creation of more open spaces; and opening up Yangon River to the city—it is currently blocked off by shipping facilities and the port.
Min Gin said that the government wanted to ensure that the entire country was not reliant on Yangon. A National Comprehensive Development Plan is currently being devised alongside the Yangon plan, which will take national, local and regional development into consideration.