A Master Plan for Yangon

Crumbling infrastructure, crowded urban areas, lack of public hygiene facilities, Yangon is in a state of despair and needs an overhaul. After Myanmar opened up to the world in 2010 and went into a transitional time from a military ruled country to a full-fledged democracy, investors and international agencies have been back to help to economic development to strengthen. Plans were launched in many fields such as in air transport modernisation, in tourism and also in the urban revitalisation of Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon.

In 2014, Japan International Cooperation Agency JICA signed with Yangon City Council for a masterplan which would take the former capital city up to 2040. Formally known as the Strategic Urban Development Plan of the Greater Yangon, the master plan foresees a redevelopment of the downtown area in a first phase while Phase 2 and Phase 3 are related to the city’s outskirts and the creation of new satellite towns. A major development axis will be on the way to the future international airport located on the road to Bago.

The study of Hanthawaddy International Airport was also conducted by JICA and the construction won by a consortium involving Singapore Changi Airport. Located on a site of approximately 3,642 hectares, 80 kilometres northeast of Yangon, Hanthawaddy International Airport is expected to have an initial capacity of 12 million passengers per annum. It will request some US$5 billion in investments.

The Masterplan is now been drawn with the participation of people’s representatives, legal experts, public administrators as well as foreign consultants. And it could also be altered compared to the first version adopted two years ago.To be kept in its current status is the Phase 1 which is due to transform the city centre into Yangon CBD. According to JICA, the planning process resolves around Yangon Improvement, Development, & Conservation. The phase 1 will try to tackle various problems such as traffic jam, environmental pollution, speculation, deterioration or damage to cultural heritage.

JICA identified already 189 heritage building in Yangon, of which 40% are located in the defined CBD. To preserve the historical value of Yangon exquisite British style town, a zoning has been defined with the height of new construction being limited. Three heritage zones have been defined, delimited by the area stretching from Strand Road to the City Hall; The Secretariat Area Conservation Zone  is located east of the Central Area Conservation Zone and is characterized by a high number of educational institutions and churches; and finally the Sula Pagoda axis road where a limited number of skyscrapers will coexist with British style colonial buildings.

Landscaping, a riverfront with parks and pedestrian areas, luxury shops, hotels and restaurants as well as cultural institutions will create a cosmopolitan sophisticated centre. Yangon circular rail – which has already a length of 45 km-will be rehabilitated to serve the population’s needs and help decreasing cars’ use in the city centre.

Giving back the historical centre to local population and visitors will also be obtained by creating alternative Business Districts and residential areas around the city centre. Traditional urban centres such as Dagon and Bago will see a large number of infrastructure developments over the decades to come.

Yangon Urban Masterplan is seen as vital for the city which is turning increasingly congested. JICA predicts that by 2035, Yangon metro population will have grown from its current 5.7 to 9.7 million inhabitants. With the economy due to be five times larger in 2035 than today, JICA estimates that the percentage of households owning a car will rise from 12%  to 32%. Transportation demand is projected to be 1.8 times current levels with streets bearing mostly the burden of more traffic as a car is generally a first external sign of wealth.