Burma

Lower House MP Seeks Halt to High-Rise Construction in Rangoon

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 8 January 2016

RANGOON — A National League for Democracy parliamentarian on Thursday put forward an urgent proposal to suspend construction of Rangoon high-rises that are not in accordance with existing laws.

May Win Myint told The Irrawaddy that she submitted the proposal because she had learned that some private and government-owned high-rise projects were going forward without the necessary approval, sometimes in the face of opposition from residents of the neighborhoods hosting them.

“I found out that some ministries are building high-rises without budget approval from the Union government. There are some privately owned buildings under construction despite YCDC [Yangon City Development Committee] objections because they have got approval from someone ‘upstairs,’” she said on the floor of Parliament.

She referred to two high-rises currently under construction as examples: a 12-story building within the compound of Rangoon General Hospital, which is being built by the Ministry of Health, and a privately owned 12.5-story building at 74 University Avenue.

The urgent proposal comes at a time when the commercial capital is under threat due to a lack of urban planning and municipal controls. The weak regulatory framework has led to a boom in construction projects and widely varying population densities across the city of more than 5 million, causing social, commercial and infrastructural problems for residents and businesses alike.

Local urban planning experts have been calling for urgent government action to rein in unruly urbanization projects and to enact the Myanmar National Building Code and Zoning Plan, both of which have existed in draft form for more than two years.

Last year, a joint-venture high-rise project with foreign investors near the Shwedagon Pagoda was shut down by the government amid growing public objection.

On Thursday, May Win Myint’s proposal was supported by 246 out of 391 Lower House parliamentarians.

During the discussion in Parliament, Health Minister Dr. Than Aung said the building in the Rangoon General Hospital compound was being constructed as an expansion of the existing hospital.

“Given the proposal, we will suspend construction,” he said, without offering further explanation.

Responding to the proposal, Deputy Construction Minister Soe Tin said that his ministry was not directly responsible for regulating high-rises’ construction, a task assigned to relevant municipal departments.

May Win Myint asked Parliament to record her proposal, and urged lawmakers to keep an eye on construction nationwide of high-rise buildings, an increasingly common feature of urban centers in the growing economy.

“I told Parliament to keep it on record because the current Parliament will end soon. As the proposal is now recorded at Parliament, I will keep pushing it in the next term,” she told The Irrawaddy.

The new Parliament is due to convene on Feb. 1, when the majority of lawmakers in both houses will be from the NLD, with the party winning nearly 80 percent of seats in Burma’s Nov. 8 general election.

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