YANGON — A $10 million land reclamation project by South Korea’s BXT International and the Rakhine State government in the state capital Sittwe is now half complete and will be ready for land sales next month, a local cabinet minister said.
The project update came at a press conference in Yangon organized by realtor iMyanmarHouse and joined by Rakhine’s minister for finance, revenue and economy, Kyaw Aye Thein, and BXT Managing Director Steve Park.
With a population of some 150,000 people, Sittwe has been segregated since 2012 communal riots between ethnic Arakanese and Rohingya that displaced tens of thousands of Muslims. The government ranks the state as the least developed in the country.
The Myanmar Investment Commission approved the reclamation project, which will add 90 acres of seaside land next to the Sittwe jetty, in 2016.
“We all know Myanmar has experienced a little turmoil, especially in the Rakhine region, and I’m really sad for what has happened there,” Mr. Park said in his opening remarks, referring to the latest outbreak of violence in the state’s far northwest.
Minister Kyaw Aye Thein told journalists that BXT controls a 70 percent stake in the project and that the state holds the rest. The Korean firm is providing 100 percent of the capital and technical support. BXT estimates that the project will cost about $10 million.
“We are not asking Rakhine or the central government to give their lands. We make new land with our own money, no investment from government or local people.” Mr. Park said. “It can bring other investors to this area. I’m very confident this project will succeed.”
iMyanmarHouse Managing Director Nay Min Thu said the reclaimed land will go for 10,000 kyats ($7.35) per square foot and up. In downtown Sittwe, he said, a square foot can go for anywhere from 200,000 to 500,000 kyats.
Mr. Park told The Irrawaddy that some Korean, Chinese and Japanese logistics companies were interested in investing in the project with warehouses, cold storage facilities and fish processing factories. He said some local entrepreneurs were also keen to build hotels, restaurants and shopping centers.
“We are still negotiating as the price of land has not been confirmed yet. Maybe at the end of this month we will come up with the prices and will discuss further with interested investors,” he said.
The project partners also hope to see the land used for housing.
Kyaw Aye Thein said that before starting on the project BXT carried out environmental and social impact assessments that were then reviewed by both the government and a private engineering company, Kaung Kyaw Sein. In order to avoid future land erosion, BXT will build a retaining wall.
The project was opposed by the Arakanese Patriot Party, which said it learned that BXT was digging up beach sand from elsewhere in Sittwe for the reclamation. Some local residents also objected to the government’s plans to seal off creeks and canals, which they use to dock their schooners, in order to prevent bad smells from reaching the project site.
Kyaw Aye Thein said the company bought sand from Pauktaw Township. But he said some locals claiming to work for BXT were digging up beach sand in Sittwe for themselves, fooling people into blaming the company.
Mr. Park said BXT was founded in 1959 and has focused on investing in land, property, infrastructure and gold mines with projects in the Middle East, Korea and the United States. He said the company owns the second largest highway bus terminal in Korea, operating for over three decades and serving more than 12 million people a year.