Kyaw Phyo Tha
[gallery type="slideshow" ids="85833,85834,85835,85836,85837,85838,85839,85840"] RANGOON — The international consortium behind one of five projects canceled this week by the Burmese government defended the development while stating that it “respects” the decision to terminate the project. In a statement released late on Wednesday, Marga Landmark denied claims that its Dagon City 1 development would have negative impacts on the Shwedagon Pagoda, considered the crown jewel of the former capital and Burma’s most sacred religious site. The developer asserted, however, that it would honor the government’s decision to halt Dagon City 1 and four other projects in the vicinity, which had previously been approved by the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC). Construction had already commenced on Dagon City 1, a US$300 million multi-use development including luxury condominiums and retail space, though all five of the projects went on hiatus in January pending an assessment by the Myanmar Engineers Society and the municipal High-Rise Inspection Committee. Opposition to the developments grew over the following months, as a group of well-known monks added their voices to the chorus of criticism. A Society to Protect the Shwedagon was established by the Buddhist nationalist group Ma Ba Tha, or the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, which organized rallies and threatened nationwide protests if the projects were allowed to continue. The Burmese government conceded to complaints this week after a series of negotiations between developers and the MIC, announcing on Tuesday that it had ordered a “complete shutdown” based partly on the concerns of “people and experts” that the project could affect the structural integrity of Shwedagon Pagoda. Both the MIC and the Ministry of Defense—the original owner of the 71-acre property—recommended cancellation, according to the government’s announcement. Marga said on Wednesday that it was “absolutely certain” the project posed no risk to the sacred monument. “Our intended use of [a] diaphragm wall, an advanced, proven technology used by many developed countries and cities, will not affect any building within 3 feet away. Shwedagon Pagoda, which is 3,000 feet away from the project, will certainly not be affected,” Marga’s statement read. “Although the project will not continue, we want to clarify these misconceptions about our previous plans.” On Thursday, The Irrawaddy observed that workers had already dismantled advertisements draped across the fences surrounding Dagon City 1. Signage and advertising for Dagon City 2, a sister project being developed by Marga’s local partner, Thukha Yadanar, was also being removed. The President’s Office told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that negotiations are underway to compensate the five firms affected by the sudden cancellation and find suitable alternate locations for the developments. Marga Landmark Development is a multi-national firm comprising partners from Hong Kong, Australia, South Korea, the United Kingdom and Burma.

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