MARGA Landmark has issued a statement clarifying its mixed-use Dagon City One project and warned against what it calls critics spreading wrong information and engaging in groundless speculation.
Dagon City One is one of five projects that have been temporarily suspended by government authorities since February, following public concern that the projects may affect the view of nearby Shwedagon Pagoda or disturb its foundation.
Marga is made up of a number of international and local investors, and is the owner of perhaps the most prominent of the five paused projects in Dagon township. Four other projects – by Thu Kha Yadanar, Shwe Taung Hyday, Shwe Taung Development and Adventure Myanmar – have also been temporarily suspended.
Marga said in the statement that while its plans have been publicly known since receiving Myanmar Investment Commission approval in March 2014 and opening a temporary gallery in June 2014, it only started facing harsh comments and baseless accusation in January 2015, raised by a small number of individuals and parties.
“These individuals and parties had not contacted or reached out to us to find out and clarify the facts,” it said. “They continued telling wrong information and making groundless speculations and allegations in spite of the fact that Dagon City One has been and is following and abiding by the law and the approved plans.”
It added the board of directors of Marga Landmark is prepared to take legal action against individuals who have repeatedly made personal defamatory comments with inaccurate information and prejudice, causing losses to Marga.
While Marga did not name any person or entity in particular in the statement, one of their foremost critics has been U Khin Hlaing, an elected member of Yangon City Development Committee.
He has been one of the most outspoken figures opposing the project, criticising the project in local media. Besides being a YCDC committee member, he is also a publisher, sells religious robes and owns the Myanmar Big Shops Shopping Mall near Shwedagon Pagoda. He told The Myanmar Times on May 11 that he “would absolutely not allow” the project to move forward.
U Khin Hlaing said he is responsible for the district of Yangon containing the project.
“I am vested with authority from the people, and I say no through this authority,” he said. Asked whether he was concerned he may be at risk for legal action as outlined by Marga, he said it was his duty as an elected representative to voice the public’s concerns.
U Khin Hlaing said he was appealing directly to the Tatmadaw to reconsider the long-term lease it had given Marga and the other four developers.
“Please, Tatmadaw, love your land, take back what’s yours and make a beneficial project for the people or for the Tatmadaw that will save Shwedagon Pagoda,” he said.
U Khin Hlaing also said that it was not only Dagon City One but the other four projects that are the target of his criticism.
The five projects are temporarily paused until YCDC gives approval to move forward. Marga says it received initial permission from the Myanmar Investment Commission in March 2014, including for the master plan and height limit of Dagon City One.
“All works have been prepared according to what we have been approved [to do],” it said.
Authorities subsequently paused the five projects in February, and the Myanmar Investment Commission had industry body the Myanmar Engineering Society conduct a review. The society’s review confirmed Dagon City One’s plans are compliant with what has been approved by the Myanmar Investment Commission and YCDC, according to Marga. It added that a special task force was appointed to focus on water drainage and on road systems.
YCDC Department of Engineering deputy director U Nay Win said on May 11 he would not comment on the five suspended projects, as they are still under analysis.Other experts have entered the debate. U Thant Myint-U, a noted historian as well as founder and chair of the Yangon Heritage Trust, tweeted in February that it was a “brave decision” for Yangon government to suspend a project near Shwedagon.
Yesterday, Yangon Heritage Trust vice chair and director Daw Moe Moe Lwin said the organisation welcomed the regional government and MIC’s decision to stop the current works in order to make a full reassessment of the Marga project.
“Being next to the nationally significant Shwedagon Pagoda and other historic religious sites, this project should be considered very carefully for its potential impacts before any decision is made,” she said.
“Any proposed project in the vicinity of the Shwedagon or other important cultural heritage sites must be carefully assessed for their heritage, environmental and social impacts before any decision is made.”
Daw Moe Moe Lwin also said the trust would like to see careful assessments of the long-term impacts of the project. She added that no YHT staff or management has met with representatives of Dagon City or provided advice to the project.
Independent experts said that while the five projects are near sensitive Shwedagon Pagoda, there are many similar instances around the world where construction has taken place near important structures.
U Zaw Zaw Aye, managing director of SEAFCO (Myanmar), a firm with experience building large projects on a contract basis, said experienced designers and firms can build foundations in a way that does not affect other nearby structures. The five paused projects are about 500 metres (1640 feet) from Shwedagon at their closest point.
“If they build near sensitive buildings, care must taken and there must be good plans and designs done with skilled technical engineering – then the projects can be built,” he said.
“In the world, there are so many buildings that are near important buildings, but sensitive construction is still completed.”
He added Shwedagon Pagoda is not only iconic, but a religious site, meaning there are many emotions tied to the project, which may also affect decisions .
Source: Myanmar Times