RANGOON — The government paid compensation to 66 landowners on February 17 to partially cover losses to be incurred during the construction of a bridge connecting downtown Rangoon with Dala Township.
The five-year, South Korea-funded bridge project, also being called the Korea-Myanmar Friendship Bridge, will cost an estimated US$168 million. South Korea’s Economic Development Cooperation Fund provided Burma with a 40-year, US$138 million loan for the project at an interest rate of only 0.01 percent.
The bridge will start from Lanmadaw Township’s Phone Gyi Street in Rangoon and connect to Dala, which is located across the Rangoon River. Tens of thousands of Dala residents work in the commercial capital and rely on daily ferries or wooden sampans to commute across the river. Many hope that the construction of the bridge will improve transportation.
Tin Oo, director of the Department of Bridges under the Ministry of Construction, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that they had written cheques worth 977 million kyats (US$793,000) in total to 68 landlords suffering losses from the project.
“We told them to withdraw the money this month,” he said.
But two of the landowners refused to accept the compensation.
In accordance with the allocated budget, Tin Oo explained that the Department of Bridges could only compensate for land loss; the budget has designated funds to pay for the destruction of buildings in the project area, and the cost of rebuilding structures after the bridge is finished.
“We have collected details for the compensation, including the houses, markets, shops, schools, religious buildings and institutional items such as water pipes and electricity posts. We all agreed to compensate for them at the proper rates,” he explained.
But at these rates, Tin Oo acknowledged that the compensation costs add up to 3.3 billion kyats (US$2.6 million). “We only have one billion kyats (over US$811,000) for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. We have to pay these one billion kyats as compensation. We still have to negotiate with the remaining landlords so that they will accept.”
Tin Oo said that after outgoing President Thein Sein made the deal with South Korea during his visit to the country in 2012, the project began in April 2013. For nine months, Korea’s Sambo Engineering Co. Ltd. collaborated with engineering consultants to complete an assessment of the social and environmental impacts of the bridge on the Rangoon River.
He added that the designing of the bridge would require another year of work and following its completion, construction would be initiated. The planned time of construction will tentatively be 2019-2020.
Translated and adapted from the original Q and A format by Nyein Nyein.