The Irrawaddy

Rangoon to Launch Public Waterfront Area in 2017

Rangoon skyline and part of its waterfront as seen from the Hlaing River. (Photo: Kyaw Phyo Tha / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — In an attempt to promote tourism, the Rangoon Division government will open a public downtown waterfront area next year, creating another tourist destination in Burma’s business hub.

Situated on the bank of Hlaing River, also known as the Rangoon River, the former capital of Burma boasts a long riverfront, but public access to the area has been very limited due to the presence of walled warehouses, jetties and ports scattered along the banks. In order to access a view of their city’s river, residents of Rangoon currently cram into a few jetties where they can engage in morning exercise or evening walks.

According to the divisional government’s tourism promotion plan, they will have more space by March of 2017.

During a forum organized by the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism on Wednesday in Rangoon, the city’s Karen Ethnic Affairs Minister Naw Pan Thinzar Myo revealed that walled waterfront areas along Strand Road from the downtown streets of Pansodan to Sule Pagoda will be open for public use as a pilot project. The area is within close range of the downtown heritage zone where century-old British colonial buildings line the streets.

“The wall along the Strand Road will be demolished to allow people to enjoy the beauty of the waterfront,” said the minister, who is also responsible for Rangoon’s tourism sector.

She added that around seven large old warehouses in the area will be renovated and converted into art spaces for public recreation.

The idea of opening the riverfront to the public is not a new one. In 2013, Rangoon’s Comprehensive Land Use, Zoning and Urban Design Review Working Committee proposed that a public space along Rangoon’s riverfront be created to improve the quality of life for residents.

Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT), an NGO advocating for the protection and restoration of public and historic spaces in Rangoon, has been lobbying for the re-development of the waterfront for public use. In their 150-page Yangon Heritage Strategy report published this year, YHT provides a detailed plan for the Rangoon riverfront, stressing that all new development along the water be low-rise and that old warehouses be adapted into retail and cultural centers.

Daw Moe Moe Lwin of the YHT said she welcomes the government’s plan to redevelop the waterfront as it has been the one of the focuses of the trust’s advocacy.

“It’s good, but how the plan is implemented is important as well,” she said, stressing the need to regulate, for example, the height limit for new development along the waterfront, which is close to the city’s heritage zone.

“The other thing is accessibility to the waterfront, as there is a toll road along the Strand. The authorities need consider that as well,” Daw Moe Moe Lwin said.