Yangon Residents Oppose $93M Development Plan, Cite Environmental Threats

Photo One of the three retention ponds in Mayangone’s 5th Quarter. / Kyaw Phyo Tha / The Irrawaddy

21 May 18 - Lawmakers and residents opposed the Yangon government's proposed development plan in the city's Mayangone Township, citing that the more than US$93 million project would pose environmental threats to the neighborhood.

The Yangon regional government proposed 'Mayangon Villa,' a commercial and mixed development project in the township, to the regional Parliament early this month. The project is part of the government's Urban Development Master Plan (Yangon Region) 2018-21, which was submitted to the regional Parliament on May 3.

The plan is made up of 12 projects including infrastructure, transportation, housing and economic development projects in the commercial capital totaling more than 1.3 trillion kyats to be carried out with local and international investment.

But the Parliament hasn't approved it yet, as lawmakers complained that the entire plan lacked transparency.

The government proposed that the Mayangone Villa project – to be located a few minute drive from the Yangon International Airport – is slated to be carried out in 2018-19 on an eight-acre plot of land near the 8 Mile junction with an estimated investment of more than $93 million, according to the master plan viewed by The Irrawaddy. The project also includes a building for the Hydro Informatics Center for the National Water Resources Committee led by the country's Vice President U Henry Van Thio.

The aims of the project are, the document says, "effective land use, to use the benefit from the project as a 'cross subsidy' in other public housing projects and to facelift Yangon's development image" among others.

But lawmakers and residents from the project area were not impressed by the objectives. They were concerned that the project would destroy three lakes that have been serving as retention ponds for rainwater and all drain water from the nearby area to protect the low-lying neighborhood from severe flooding.

Residents of Mayangone's 5th Quarter said they were already suffering floods when the rains come, and were worried that if the lakes were earth-filled to make way for the project, their neighborhood would be prone to even more flooding.

Daw Khin Pyone Cho, one of the residents, told The Irrawaddy that even with the existence of the lakes, floodwaters sometimes invade her garage when it rains heavily.

"If there are no lakes, our neighborhood will suffer more. That's why we reject the project," she said.

The National League for Democracy lawmaker of the township Daw Moe Moe Suu Kyi urged the Parliament last week on behalf of the residents to leave the lakes alone.

"The proposed eight-acre project area will be met only when you keep the three lakes. Any filling of the lakes for the project will mean more trouble for the residents. I oppose any plan that would damage the lakes," she said.

Daw Nilar Kyaw, Yangon's Minister of Electricity, Industry, Transport and Communication, admitted to the Parliament that the lakes are in the project area and pledged that there would be no harm done to them.

"The government's water management committee will take care of them for better and more useful means," she said, without elaborating.

Lawmaker Daw Moe Moe Suu Kyi told The Irrawaddy that whatever the government's plan was, the existence of the lakes was more important.

"They are not only retention ponds but water resources as well, as they are recharging the underground water," she said.

Another resident said he didn't believe in development that would put the lives of the residents and the neighborhood's environment in peril.

"Their predecessors made mistakes. If the current government follows their footsteps, it will get worse," he said.

U Myint Swe, a former deputy director from the Department of Urban and Housing Development, said the lakes should be left alone, as they are the retention basins of the area.

He explained that contrary to how it is now, downtown Yangon in the past rarely suffered from flooding in rainy season due to a large retention pond that held rainwater before releasing it into Yangon River. But the pond in Botahtaung Township was earth-filled for a housing project under the previous military regime.

"It would be the same [for the Mayangone Villa project]. Without the ponds, more floods will be taken for granted, and residents will be the ones who suffer."

​Source: The Irrawaddy

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