RANGOON — The municipal body responsible for regulating the construction of high-rise buildings in Burma’s business hub is toothless to intervene when disputes are connected to powerful officials, according to a board member.
Khin Hlaing, one of nine members of the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), said despite regulations stating that prior permission must be obtained before new structures are built within 33 townships overseen by the committee, some ministries have overlooked the stipulations.
“We have found that some buildings constructed on lands owned by some ministries have no YCDC permission. The authorities [connected to] those ministries really need to seek permission,” he said during a press conference last week.
Until 2010 under the previous military regime, YCDC was directly managed by the Rangoon mayor. But when the new administration under President Thein Sein assumed power, the municipal body was placed under the Rangoon Division government.
Khin Hlaing said some ministry officials were of the apparent opinion that they need not seek permission from an inferior local body.
The committee member said most of the buildings constructed on lands in Rangoon owned by the military, the port authority, the ministry of health and others departments had failed to seek prior permission from the YCDC.
“Even the police department didn’t seek permission. They only did so upon the completion of the buildings they managed in Pabedan, Latha and Kyauktada townships,” he explained, adding that for high-rise buildings, the regional government gives approvals based on comments from the YCDC.
“We have regulations to restrict building heights. Despite our restrictions and objections, there were times we had to nod [approval] when the divisional government gave the green light for high-rises to go ahead. We could do nothing,” he said.
Khin Hlaing’s comments came after an NLD lawmaker submitted an urgent proposal in Parliament’s Lower House earlier this month requesting that all high-rise constructions in Rangoon be halted. The proposal resulted in the suspensions of a high-rise in the Rangoon General Hospital compound that was operating without YCDC permission and another 12.5 story construction on University Avenue.
Since 2011, Burma’s commercial capital has seen a plethora of high-rise projects initiated across the city in the name of modern development. Many projects, planned or in progress, have attracted criticism from urban planners and architects who contend they would impact the city’s already heaving traffic and detract from historic surrounding colonial heritage, among other concerns.
Last year, the government finally canceled a controversial high-rise project near the Shwedagon pagoda after mounting local criticism.
Khin Hlaing admitted that even some YCDC employees had failed to follow the body’s rules and regulations regarding construction in the city.
“Given the regional government’s interventions on building permissions, some officials here make the most of it for their interests too,” he said.
Hla Su Myat, a member of the Myanmar Architects’ Council and a technical consultant for YCDC’s Committee for Quality Control of High Rise Buildings, agreed with Khin Hlaing’s assessment.
“Even in the YCDC, we don’t know what department is building what,” she said.
“Whether it’s U Thein Sein or Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, anyone who wants to build something has to follow the YCDC regulations. Anyone who fails to do so is violating the law.”
The architect suggested that the incoming government should review all ongoing and proposed high-rise projects.
“If we can’t control them the traffic and building density problems will surely deteriorate. We would all suffer,” she said.