Debate rages on Yangon waterfront’s future

The port facilities ringing Strand Road on the Yangon River are being upgraded even as some experts are calling for increased public use of Yangon’s waterfront.

Myanma Port Authority is overseeing the construction of 10 new jetties by a range of companies, all of which are slated to open this year. Plans include constructing more warehouses and commercial buildings near the waterfront, while three of the new jetties have already opened.

Re-doubling construction along the waterfront is a missed opportunity for Yangon, as there is a shortage of public space already and citizens should be able to enjoy the waterfront, according to some experts.

“The waterfront needs to be made [open] for the public,” said Yangon Heritage Trust director Daw Moe Moe Lwin.

“The Yangon waterfront can be adapted to allow more free public space. We constantly urge authorities to move in this direction.”

Private commercial concerns should not universally overrule the public’s need for pleasant, free spaces.
“Yangon rarely includes spaces for the public,” she said. “When spaces are limited to private concerns, then they are not open to all people, just those who can pay. If waterfront areas can be opened to the public, they will be happy.”

Myanma Port Authority chief engineer U Mya Than said earlier this week that three jetties – built by Myanma Industrial Port, Myat Myitta Mon and Annawa – have been completed this year, with a total of 10 are under construction. The others are owned by Myanma Economic Corporation, Myanma Port Authority, Asia World, Shwe Nar Wha, Shwe Taung and Max Myanmar.

Port facilities at Thilawa Special Economic Zone, south of the city, are also being expanded, which may in the future take up some of the traffic currently headed to Yangon’s ports.

Daw Moe Moe Lwin said the waterfront area is also near the city’s downtown, the four blocks running north-south that contain much of the Yangon’s heritage architecture. Upgrades near the Yangon River risk overshadowing downtown’s heritage.

Myanma Port Authority invited private companies to take part in waterfront upgrades through tenders.

Authorities ought to consider the possibility that high-rises may block waterfront views and degrade downtown heritage.

“Upgrading should always consider the city’s heritage,” said Daw Moe Moe Lwin.

The latest information from Myanma Port Authority shows that high-rises at Pansodan port will be 10 storeys, with several other large buildings planned. Yangon City Development Committee officials said they agreed it is important a balance is struck between private and public space at the waterfront.

Consultant and urban planner U Toe Aung said the public is presently able to visit two locations – Botahtaung and Nanthida harbours – that are not unpleasant.

“YCDC also wants to open the waterfront for public spaces, and wants better recreation facilities than now,” he said. “Recently it’s become difficult for people to come and rest comfortably.” U Toe Aung said he would like to see the public request more space at the waterfront, but claimed requests had so far been minimal.

“Maybe they don’t know who to ask,” he said. “We need to provide awareness when we meet with them.”
Yangon Heritage Trust has been vocal about increasing the amount of recreation space along the waterfront, which U Toe Aung said YCDC supports.

“We welcome Yangon Heritage Trust’s ideas for waterfront recreation. We also want it to be like that,” he said. “The waterfront should provide fresh air, but with buildings along the waterfront, that may be blocked.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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