Balloon Facility Will Squeeze out Park Users, Protesters Warn

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Around 100 people protested against the helium balloon project planned by Myanmar Voyages International Tourism Company on 11 February, last Saturday. The helium balloon facility is expected to provide tourists with a chance to enjoy a panoramic view of the city, including Kandawgyi Lake and the Shwedagon Pagoda.

The protesters, who visit Yangon’s Kandawgyi Park on a regular basis, were against the project because it would take up public space at Kandawgyi Park, which was already deemed insufficient for park users.

“Public space in Yangon is few and far between. In Kandawgyi, most of the park area is no longer available for us because the spaces were taken up by business people for commercial interests, such as restaurants,” said Daw May Thet Tun, who usually exercises in the park every morning.

“The remaining public space is very small. Private companies should not be allowed to squeeze [the public space] further,” she added. The public area is very useful, and very important, for residents who live in surrounding townships. They use the area for relaxation, for hanging out, walking and doing exercise.

“We don’t want to lose our public space. We don’t welcome any commercial ventures here. People in Yangon are in dire need of more public areas and now they [business people and investors] are trying to further squeeze us out,” she told The Myanmar Times.

The protestors are also worried about the security and protection of the Shwedagon Pagoda because the balloons will fly at 400 feet, higher than the pagoda’s height, according to U Kyaw Swar Thein, a Mingalar Taung Nyunt township resident.

“When the balloons fly above the Shwedagon Pagoda, which is what we heard, this could pose a risk to the security of the pagoda. Also, the project would completely change the nature of the park,” he added, explaining that once the balloon facility is up and running, the park will be overrun with tourists. The space will be turned into a tourist attraction, he complained, benefitting the wealthy tourists but not the local, ordinary residents.

U Kyaw Swar Thein added that there are more than 1000 residents from Kyauktahtar, Mingalar Taung Nyunt, Tarmwe and Bahan townships who visit and relax at the park during weekends. The tourist attraction would limit their vicinity.

Other protestors echoed a similar sentiment against the balloon facility. In addition, they are concerned about the removal (and relocation) of a dozen of trees inside the park.

However, Myanmar Voyages International Tourism Co, which will carry out the balloon project, said that they have secured permission from the playgrounds, parks & gardens department of the Yangon City Development Committee on February 1.

“Our helium balloon enterprise would not destroy the environment and would not affect the security or protection of the Shwedagon Pagoda … Our balloons would not fly around [in the sky] and would just remain floating in the air for 15 minutes for every ride,” said Daw Lwin Lwin Kyaw, the company’s spokesperson.

She added that they will use only 30,000 square feet of the park’s area and there will not be any entrance fees, unless visitors would like to ride on the balloons.

“Other spaces would remain free… We will remove about 15 to 17 trees at the facility site but we will re-plant the trees,” she explained.

The enterprise would provide a unique opportunity for tourists to appreciate Yangon’s landscape and it will likely boost the city’s tourism industry. There are hardly other platforms or high-rise buildings from which visitors can view the city from above. The balloons are intended to serve that particular purpose. The balloons will not fly around the city, and the site will include some restaurants and related facilities. The firm will be paying K140 million per year to the government for the land lease, she added.

“People misunderstand the project. We will release more details soon to keep the press and the people informed. The contract [we signed with the government] does not allow balloons to rise higher than the Shwedagon Pagoda. Also, we are paying K400,000 in compensation for every tree relocated,” said Daw Lwin Lwin Kyaw.

 

Source: The Myanmar Times

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