Dala in limbo after speculation rush

The ongoing speculation rush in the Yangon new city area to the west of the existing city is not the city’s first, and likely not its last. Nearby Dala township, across the Yangon River from downtown, experienced a similar speculation boom a year ago.

While the latest Yangon new city rush occurred following a surprise announcement by the mayor last month that the area would be the site of a US$8 billion city extension, the Dala township rush a year ago came after an announcement that a bridge would be built linking it with downtown Yangon.

Last year’s bridge announcement set off a buying rush, with speculators driving up land prices overnight. Yet insiders say that since the initial rush, it has been quiet in Dala township.

“Nobody’s buying land in Dala township,” said U Hla Chit, an area real estate agent.

Prices are still high a year after the rush, even though some officials have cast doubt on when the bridge will be built.

“There are inquiries into local property but people never buy because the land prices are still too high from last year. Although prices aren’t increasing any more, they’re not dropping, either, after we heard about the bridge,” he said.

U Hla Chit said he pegged a relatively central lot of 2400 square feet from K50 to K70 million, while the more removed of the 60 by 40 ft lots can be K45 million. Some lots on main roads are asking over K100 million.

Dala township has long been overlooked in favour of nearby Yangon, as it is a tough place to get to. Currently, transportation to the area requires a ride on an often-crowded ferry across the Yangon River, or a time-consuming trip by land to the nearest bridge over the Hlaing River.

Last year’s announcement that a bridge was forthcoming with South Korean assistance set off the property speculation rush, but a trip by The Myanmar Times last week revealed little in the way of new construction that is happening in other parts of Yangon.

Instead, Dala township has much of the same flooded streets and small houses as when reporters visited a year ago during the rush.

“The township hasn’t changed in any special way even though land prices are higher. There are still no good buildings – the highest in the township are three stories,” said Daw Pan Hla, a local resident of Jaza Thingjan quarter in Dala township.

The ferry continues to be a major problem for local residents, who have trouble commuting to Yangon, especially if they have work that keeps them there late at night.

Many speculators do not bother renting out the land after they have purchased, as rental prices are currently low, according to Daw Pan Hla. She said many area residents instead squat on land that does not belong to them, sometimes paying K150,000 a year for the privilege.

“When the rainy season ends, we may have to leave if the owner comes and decides to build,” she said.

Many of the residents in Jaza Thingjan quarter said they have no idea where to go next. Many have moved further away in the same township where there is still cheap land.

“The strong property market did not support local residents in any way,” said Ko Kyaw Lay, a local resident who works as a motorcycle taxi driver.

“It’s just a market for the speculators, dealers and investors.”

He also said he has seen few signs of improved infrastructure and transportation, made worse by the rainy season.

Real estate agents and developers based in Yangon said they agreed that Dala township is not being developed like other areas, though this could change when the promised bridge finally arrives.

A bridge between Dala and Yangon will not only change the local economy, but also raise local living standards, said Yangon-based contractor U Kaung Han.

“Dala is quite near to Yangon’s downtown. Other townships that are further away are being developed, but Dala is not, because of the transportation problem,” he said.

Building a bridge could make the township a feasible place for people to live.

“If the bridge gets built, it will be a crowded place,” he said.

U Yan Aung, manager of ABC construction, said that if the government wants to extend the city, Dala may be a suitable place to build. It is closer to Yangon than many other areas, including the 30,000 acres to the west of Yangon that have been targeted in the new city project.


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