Yangon zoning plan in limbo as experts push for re-start

Yangon’s zoning plan is due for a restart after contentious discussions meant the process had ground to a halt, according to U Toe Aung, urban planner with Yangon City Development Committee.

“The zoning plan was recently halted as we contended with foreign developers who wanted to build high-rises,” he said.

Authorities may be hesitating on the plan, but it will eventually arrive as the government has pledged to put it in place, he added.

U Toe Aung said developers’ attitudes are also beginning to change. Several years ago, many construction businesses wanted to build high-rises, but interest has somewhat disappeared as developers realised this is complicated by poor infrastructure in areas like utilities and roads.

Some projects, often with a foreign-owned component, are keen on high-rise projects though, necessitating the zoning plan. It must still be passed by the Yangon Region hluttaw to become law.

“When we started the zoning plan and began discussing a limit on high-rises, local developers didn’t support that. They wanted to build developments with high-rises,” he said. “Now they understand how difficult this is made by our infrastructure.”

Some have said that when foreign developers proposed projects they are asking too much of the city and its weak infrastructure. Others have criticised zoning plan drafts as being too restrictive for some developers.

Urban planners U Kyaw Latt said there are other considerations that go into approving high rises. With taller buildings comes more floor space. This means overcrowding – particularly as many owners of high-rise units also own cars.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the city may lose its character with tall buildings in the wrong place.
U Kyaw Latt said the goal of the zoning plan is draft rules for proper utilisation of urban land and limit high-rise buildings as part of a policy for “urbanisation in harmony”. The draft zoning plan has received input from a number of organisations, including YCDC, the Ministry of Construction, the Ministry of Science and Technology, Yangon Heritage Trust, the Association of Myanmar Architects and a team from the Japan International Cooperation Association.

Urban planners are keen to see updated rules that make sense, given the rapid changes of Yangon. U Kyaw Latt said about 60 percent of the project is complete, with plans submitted to Yangon Region government, though confirmation has been delayed.

“The process of approving the zoning plan was almost finished by the government, but then it was left alone and the process stopped,” he said. “However, we will make sure it is totally finished.”
Observers say Yangon Region has not provided a reason as to why it has not been passed, other than the zoning plan is not ready to be put into place.

“We have finished drawing up the draft zoning plan and submitted it to the Regional government. But they responded that the time is not right,” said Daw Moe Moe Lwin, director at Yangon Heritage Trust. “We urge continued work on the zoning plan.”

Yangon Region member of parliament Daw Nyo Nyo Thin said she thinks there may be little willingness to support the plan on the part of the government, as MPs have constantly raised the issue with no avail.
“The government hasn’t approved it yet so I think they don’t want it,” she said.

While the government has signed on in principle to the zoning plan, it has not yet followed through on it.

“We have explained the zoning plan to the government many times and in many ways. We have explained our urban heritage must be preserved and must not disappear,” she said.

“They also said that they will enforce it, but not yet, so they are breaking their commitment.”
Daw Nyo Nyo Thin also called on developers, whether local or foreign, to respect the spirit of the plan. The property business is dependent on the public to purchase condos and houses, so must respect their wishes.

“In the previous era, businesses could do whatever they want if they have peace with the government, but the country will not be like that soon,” she said. “If they try to do whatever they like with the government’s help, the future won’t be good.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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