Yangon New City forgotten by most but residents still hopeful

The area of the once and possibly future Yangon New City project has been irrevocably changed following its announcement by Yangon mayor U Hla Myint last September 22.

His surprise statement in regional parliament that Yangon would build a multi-billion dollar expansion on 30,000 acres across the Hlaing River from the main city initially set off a speculation frenzy.

When he announced several days later that the project was suspended indefinitely to give authorities more time to assess the project, some speculators were left holding the bag – some land had been driven up in value a few times over in the intervening few days.

Locals say they are still hopeful the project will be built despite little discussion on the New City project. Some are pointing to local changes in the sparsely populated area to the southwest of Yangon across the Hlaing river as improvements, with many still hoping the project arrives.

Experts have cast doubt on whether the New City project is viable, however, with some saying it is unlikely to be built – though some are not dissuaded.

In the intervening months since mayor U Hla Myint’s announcement, the area has seen electricity distribution installed and lamp posts built. Concrete roads are also being put in place, according to U Than Htay, a resident of Tamar Tagaw village.

“We are seeing some preparation for the New City,” he said. “It must be for a city’s character, because it’s been a very long time our villages have not had electricity. Now, electric lamps have arrived, but it is not an easy thing to connect our area with the city.”

The area is also criss-crossed with smaller streams, many of which are now receiving bridges. Water channels are also being added to prevent flooding and control streams in the area.

“We don’t know who is doing the digging, but YCDC is building the bridges,” he said. “There are always some changes in our village, even though nothing big is happening. I think the project was stopped verbally but not in action.”

While the area may be improving, the local property market has not recovered.

Transactions have come to a halt. A year ago, a typical acre of land cost K7 million (US$6775), though some land shot up as high as K100 million, and even hard-to-reach land was selling for K15 million an acre.

Taman Gyi village resident U Win Myint said there has been few transactions since New City was suspended.

“The market has been totally stopped; there are no more people coming from the city to buy farm land,” he said.

Many farmers sold out during last year’s speculation, though others were left holding on to property that is worth little more than it was before the craze.

Local agents say properties which would have sold for K60 to K70 million an acre during the height of speculation now cost K18 to K20 million acres.

U Win Myint, who is a farmer, said many farmers who sold their land have stayed on as tenant farmers. He added the area’s land is not particularly rich, so rice yields tend not to be too high.

“The paddy land is yielding about half as much rice as it was 10 years ago,” he said.

Local residents are keen to see the New City project implemented, as it will improve their livelihood.

They have even protested three times, according to U Than Htay – but they are still left hoping.

Parliamentarians say there are no current plans for the New City to go ahead.

Daw Nyo Nyo Thin, a member of parliament from Bahan township, said the government has said they would withdraw the project.

“They committed in parliament to withdrawing the New City project,” she said.

“Parliament is not a playground. If you go ahead [with the project] they are being dishonest.”

She added the current government term is ending soon. If it decides to continue with the project, it is likely the next government would not take up responsibility.

Daw Nyo Nyo Thin added some local people in the area had asked for support from MPs, worried their land would be the subject of land grabs.

Large-scale projects must also be implemented transparently, she added.

Source: Myanmar Times

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