What went wrong with Yangon Water Boom

On March 2, Yangon’s much-awaited new water park opened its doors to excited crowds. Within eight hours, however, a combination of closed slides, dirty river water, stray dogs and inappropriately clothed visitors had staff closing the park early.

“I’m not happy at all,” said Nay Myo Aung, who brought his wife and two children to Yangon Water Boom’s opening day. “We paid K80,000 to come here, and that’s a lot of money for us. Especially because my kids weren’t happy here – they kept switching off the water, and everything was not fresh. It is not good at all. We didn’t get any information about some of the slides being closed.”

All four of the park’s signature slides – including the Tornado, Python, Boomerango and Combination Slide – were closed. There were also reports of frogs hopping in and out of the water, as well as metallic slides already rusting in the Myanmar sun. The park issued a public apology on Facebook the next day and announced it would be closed until further notice, but the post did not explain how the project, put together by one of Myanmar’s largest and most diversified conglomerates, went from boom to bust so fast.

“After much deliberation, the Management would like to announce that Yangon Waterboom will be temporary closed until further notice,” the announcement stated. “Our team is currently working hard to fix the problem to meet the expected condition. Rest assured, we will resolve this as quickly as possible. YWB will re-open in the near future with a much better and improved service. We deeply apologize for any inconveniences caused.”

The park was built by UMG, a property and infrastructure development business that has operated in Myanmar since its founding in 1998. CEO Kiwi Aliwarga has set a goal of making it a billion-dollar company by 2020, and the company motto is “relentless pursuit of excellence”.

The Myanmar Times spoke with Ko Ye Wint Thu, a representative from UMG, on March 7 to find out how “excellence” turned into disaster.

“On the opening day, the water was clean in the morning,” he said. “But at about 1pm, the water filter and cleansing machineries stopped working. We don’t blame this on anyone and admit our machineries’ problems.”

A water filtration issue at Yangon Water Boom is a serious concern, as the water source is none other than the Yangon River. Sewage from the six downtown townships was actually dumped directly into the river as recently as 2003, and its murky green colour does not quite match the clear droplets splashed across Water Boom promotional materials.

Soe Thiha Hlaing, a park visitor who posted a critique on Facebook that quickly went viral, highlighted the “filthy” water quality as a chief concern.

“Murky to a point where you can’t see the bottom of the pool,” states the post, which was shared 517 times. “By the way, you don’t get clean fresh water in the showers. I question what was the point of me taking a much awaited shower when the dripping liquid that came out of the shower is that same saltish tasting whatever I escaped…”

According to Ko Ye Wint Thu, technicians are repairing the filtration machines. At the same time, management is working on improving visitors support to make sure experiences like Soe Thiha Hlaing’s do not happen again.

“We care about all the comments of our visitors from social websites and apologize for our weakness,” he said. “As our machines stopped, we couldn’t control the water system and the park filled with dirty water. Then we lost our ability to entertain visitors.”

For UMG, a company that trades primarily in heavy machinery such as excavators, the mechanical failure was a surprise. But it was not the only complaint – park visitors also lamented long waits for snacks at the food court, stray dogs wandering around inside the compound and an insufficiently enforced “swimwear-only” code.

“I saw more people in their underwear and gym gear than in swimsuits,” Soe Thiha Hlaing wrote. “Truly horrific, when you are going up winding stairs just to bump into some guys in wet briefs.”

Water Boom slides appeared to be built from metal, a departure from traditional slide construction materials such as PVC or fiberglass. Considering Yangon’s climate and the very nature of a water park, upkeep could become an issue.

There has also been speculation that the high price of admission – which costs K25,000 for an adult on the weekend – is an attempt to keep some of Yangon’s economically disadvantaged population from hanging out at the park.

Visitors such as Nay Myo Aung, who visited opening day, will be given a chance to re-enter the park for free during its first month whenever it re-opens.

But that date remains unknown.

“We can’t say definitely, but we can say our Yangon Water Boom will open soon,” Ko Ye Wint Thu said.

 

Source: Myanmar Times

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