Yangon (2007-2017) / Height Restriction Policies That Shape Both the Urban and Economic Landscape
As a way of preserving the image of cultural heritage in downtown Yangon as well as finally establishing a building-permit process (Aye, Yangon zoning plan expected this year 2016), the Yangon regional government has implemented categories of different height restriction zones in their urban master plan as recommended by the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), the Ministry of Construction, Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT), the Ministry of Science and Technology, and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) (Aye, Yangon zoning plan expected this year 2016).
The plan highlights 11 zones but with five classifications of height restrictions: ‘up to four storeys, up to six storeys, buildings 317 feet high (95.1 metres) and buildings 417 feet high (125.1m)’ (Noe Noe Aung and Myat Nyein Aye 2014). Due to transparency issues within Myanmar, only the changed zoning plan in 2014 as part of the Greater Yangon 2040 plan revision could be obtained as the latest document.
The zoning policy was initiated and reasoned with the Shwedagon Pagoda as a basis, stating that no building shall be taller than the Buddhist holy structure. As from the first Greater Yangon 2040 plan, no building within a 1.6km radius may be taller than six storeys. Other considerations taken into account include the Shiga Pagoda, Sule Pagoda and other heritage buildings.
Specifically it names a Central Business District, Shwedagon Restricted Area and Heritage Conservation Area as primary areas for consideration. Other various considerations have been taken into account, such as the street width. 35 per cent of the Yangon district is designated for high-rise building (Lin 2016).
These zoning and height restrictions will play a large role in the urban landscape of the historical and cultural centre of Yangon. “A developed country does not just have high-rise buildings but also green zones and heritage buildings. We don’t want these things to be lost like in other developed countries. We are allowing high-rise buildings in commercial zones and developers can build with the sky as the limit,” said Daw Hlaing Maw Oo [director general of public works in the Ministry of Construction]” (Noe Noe Aung and Myat Nyein Aye 2014).
The regulation has been largely contested between city authorities and developers since its first proposal, particularly over the height restriction regulations and projected population density studies (Aye, Yangon zoning plan expected this year 2016). The population is projected to go from approximately 5.7 million to 10.8 million by 2040 (YCDC and JICA 2014). The contention comes arguably rightly so in light, along with the change in governance, of the liberalization of the economy and the high potential for local and foreign investors in the land. Most developers protest against the policy, particularly if it means changing current plans already underway.
One reaction to the ongoing protests and defiance by developers is the New City project, announced in early 2017 by the regional administration, which differed from the JICA Greater Yangon 2040 plan of developing and improving existing infrastructure in downtown Yangon to establishing new urban districts just at its outskirts, with largely high-rise interest. The right to development is granted by bidding, albeit to only ‘local’ companies. In other words, the regional government still aims to preserve the downtown district and limit the number of storeys built, but while urbanizing horizontally to the outer periphery and allowing taller development there instead.
The decision to formalise and implement such a policy reflects the reverence to a certain extent at which the regional government holds to downtown Yangon’s religious and heritage buildings, one that comes at a cost, of which investors and developers are heavily aware of. As stakeholders react against the policy, so does the government react against the protests, such as by further expanding its zoning plan to include outer Yangon districts of notably different height restrictions, and so beginning to sculpt a particular kind of urban landscape.
Aye, Myat Nyein. 2016. “Yangon zoning plan expected this year.” Myanmar Times. May 13. Accessed December 23, 2017. https://www.mmtimes.com/business/20294-yangon-zoning-plan-expected-this-year.html.
Eleven Media Group. 2013. “Yangon limits height of buildings near Shwedagon.” The Nation. February 15. Accessed December 23, 2017. http://www.nationmultimedia.com/aec/Yangon-limits-height-of-buildings-near-Shwedagon-30200086.html.
Japan Internation Cooperation Agency (JICA), and Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC). 2013. A Strategic Urban Development Plan, The Project for the Strategic Urban Development Plan of the Greater Yangon. Final Report I, Yangon: Nippon Koei Co., Ltd, NJS Consultants Co., Ltd., YACHIYO Engineering Co., Ltd., International Development Center of Japan Inc., Asia Air Survey Co., Ltd., ALMEC Corporation.
Kitahara, Reiko, and Satoko Shinohara. 2015. “Research on urban planning and building regulation by Yangon City Development Committee.” Japan Architecture Institute Technical Report 1195-1200.
Kyaw, Khine. 2016. “Yangon to focus on decentralisation.” The Nation. December 26. Accessed December 23, 2017. http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/business/EconomyAndTourism/30302830.
Lin, Zay Yar. 2016. “Yangon planner aims for 35% high-rises.” Myanmar Times. March 24. Accessed December 23, 2017. https://www.mmtimes.com/business/property-news/19627-yangon-planner-aims-for-35-high-rises.html.
Moe, Ko. 2017. “Yangon New City Project makes few adjustments.” The Global New Light of Myanmar. July 11. Accessed December 23, 2017. http://www.globalnewlightofmyanmar.com/yangon-new-city-project-makes-few-adjustments/.
Oo, Tin Mg. 2015. “Gov’t Calls Tender for Yangon New City.” Myanmar Business Today. July 19. Accessed December 23, 2017. https://www.mmbiztoday.com/articles/gov-t-calls-tender-yangon-new-city.
Win, Aye Nyein, and Tin Yadanar. 2017. “Yangon New City project to be remodelled with tower blocks included.” Myanmar Times. July 12. Accessed December 23, 2017. https://www.mmtimes.com/business/26774-yangon-new-city-project-to-be-remodelled-with-tower-blocks-included.html.
YCDC, Yangon City Development Committee, and Japan International Cooperation Agency JICA. 2014. A Strategic Urban Development Plan of Greater Yangon. Final Report II, Summary, Yangon: Nippon Koei Co., Ltd., NJS Consultants Co., Ltd., YACHIYO Engineering Co., Ltd., International Development Center of Japan Inc., Asia Air Survey Co., Ltd., ALMEC Corporation.