A tourist takes picture at the area of Kandawgyi Park designated as a hot-air balloon launch site on Oct 4. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)
RANGOON — City officials said they are planning to allow a private company to develop a hot air balloon launch site in one of the greenest areas in Rangoon as a “tourist attraction and public entertainment.”
U Ko Ko Lin, the head of Yangon City Development Committee’s (YCDC) Playgrounds, Park and Gardens Department, confirmed to The Irrawaddy that Myanmar Voyage International Tourism proposed that a 40,000 square feet lawn in Kandawgyi Park to be used as a hot air balloon launch site.
“An initial survey has been done for the site,” he said.
Myanmar Voyage International Tourism Company is run by U Thet Lwin Toe, who is also the chairman of Myanmar Tourism Federation.
The 110-acre park is beside the famous Shwedagon Pagoda and surrounds Kandawgyi Lake, one of two major lakes in Rangoon. Mostly covered with large trees, the park provides outdoor space for recreation and relaxation.
Daw Hlaing Maw Oo, the Secretary of the YCDC, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that only the lawn would be developed and on the condition that the surrounding trees, lanes and lake are not affected.
“Construction of any permanent building on the site is not allowed. We will not tolerate any damage to the trees, lanes and lake,” she said.
“We will only permit use of the lawn which does not have any big trees. Currently the space features topiary and is only used for taking photographs, not for the public to exercise,” she added.
The Secretary explained that the hot-air balloon will not fly over the lake and park. Instead, it will rise from the site to provide visitors a birds-eye view of the area while remaining tethered to the ground.
The plan emerged at a time when Rangoon residents and YCDC are struggling to reclaim public spaces. Many parks and football grounds were sold off to businessmen for developments during the previous military regime and under the former administration led by Thein Sein.
“We are trying our best to preserve public spaces. But when it comes to tourist attractions and public entertainment, we will allow development to some extent as long as it doesn’t affect the surrounding environment,” Daw Hlaing Maw Oo said.