By KYAW PHONE KYAW | FRONTIER
YANGON — Residents of South Dagon’s 26th ward say they will continue their months-long fight against development plans that will turn an empty plot of land, once earmarked as a public recreation space, into high-rise apartments.
Speaking at a downtown press conference on Wednesday, residents said the barren 1.7-acre plot was used by local children as a playground and would affect the ward’s quality of life if developed into a residential complex.
“This area is the heart of our ward,” resident leader U Kyaw Swar Thein told reporters. “We are poor and can’t afford to maintain the land as a football playground… but our children always play there.”
Kyaw Swar Thein said the land had been acquired by U Aung Kyaw Thu, a businessman based in Kamaryut. Residents were told by representatives of Aung Kyaw Thu that a number of residential high-rises on the property.
Former ward administrator U Soe Hlaing said the loss of such a widely-used recreation spot would pose a health risk to young people living in the bustling ward, which like much of Yangon is lacking in suitable outdoor public spaces.
“If the children don’t have this playground, they will have to play on the road and it might lead to accidents. We are arguing for the children not out of any personal interests. It is for the younger generation,” he said.
Residents submitted a letter stating their case to the Yangon Mayor and the Chief Minister shortly after they took office in March, along with 600 signatures protesting the development from local residents. Around 200 people protested against the development in Tarmwe the same month.
The Yangon Hluttaw’s Social Management Committee have visited the plot twice in recent months and asked residents to comment on the development, but an official response from the regional government has not yet been issued.
During this time, with the matter still under consideration by regional authorities, an official land title document was given to Aung Kyaw Thu by the Yangon City Development Committee.
YCDC representatives have also visited the plot several times to conduct cadastral surveys and to give official permission to build a fence to enclose the land. Residents have repeatedly blocked municipal officials from conducting measurements for the fence in the hope that the Yangon government will overrule the development proposal.
U Nyi Nyi, who represents South Dagon in the Yangon assembly and serves as secretary of the Social Management Committee, told Frontier that parliament had received the complaint petition from local residents and a final decision on the matter would be made by the regional government.
According to MP U Nyi Nyi, there had been a trend in recent years of developers buying up vacant land earmarked for public space in the Yangon town plan.
“They bought public areas and build the fences. Now, we got a lot of reports and complaints from local residents,” he said.
At the press conference, residents presented an old map of the ward, signed by planning authorities, which showed the plot at the centre of the dispute was supposed to be developed as a football field.
The current administrator of the 26th ward, U Kyaw Myint, said the land was recognised as a future public playground by authorities under the military administration.