If your home is in a flood-prone area and sloshing about in water is disrupting your family life, there’s a company in Mandalay that offers an uplifting solution.
By KYAW YE LYNN | FRONTIER
Photos by STEVE TICKNER
U Kyaw Swar Myint’s two-storey brick and concrete home is in a low-lying area of Thaketa Township in eastern Yangon and it floods every time there is heavy rain or an unusually high tide in the nearby Pazundaung Creek.
“I built a small wall to prevent downstairs from flooding but it was not leak-proof and the house would still flood,” he said, adding that it would take hours for the water to drain.
Kyaw Swar Myint runs a small slipper-making business from his home and the flooding would disrupt his livelihood for at least two days.
The flooding was frequent during the rainy season, from May to September, and occurred about twice a month at other times of the year, mainly because of high tides.
Then the situation worsened.
“For the past five years we’ve been flooded up to 10 times a month,” he said, blaming the disruption to his family life and business on newly-built concrete roads that have raised the level of the street but lack an adequate drainage system.
“The situation became a major problem for me,” Kyaw Swar Myint told Frontier. He said his home was in good condition and he did not want the expense of demolishing it and rebuilding.
He began seeking a solution and last year he found it, after he became a friend on Facebook with U Nay Min Han, who runs a business in Mandalay. It’s called Golden House Building Moves and is one of a small number of businesses in the country that specialise in lifting and moving buildings.
“I told him about it, and he said no worries, ako,” said Kyaw Swar Myint, using a Burmese word for brother.
Nay Min Han established his company in 1999 but entered the industry about 40 years ago when he began working for his father, who made a living lifting and relocating traditional wooden houses.
After first sending a senior employee to determine if Kyaw Swar Myint’s home could be lifted, Nay Min Han returned on May 12 with 24 of his 50 workers. It was their job to lift the house after separating it from the foundations, a task made more difficult by the narrow space between the walls of his home and those of his neighbours.
“That’s why it took two days to lift the house four feet,” he said.
It was the third building that Nay Min Han’s firm has lifted in Yangon so far this year.
He said the company had previously focused on northern Myanmar, from its base in Mandalay, but begun expanding about five years ago because of rising demand and the growing ease of finding customers, mainly enabled by increased internet use.
“My business has grown steadily over the past five or six years as people became aware of it through Facebook,” Nay Min Han said.
“Now we are moving or lifting 40 to 50 buildings a month,” he said.
Nay Min Han said the first big project his company was awarded after it was formed in 1999 was for the Kachin Independence Army and involved lifting a Buddhist monastery in Mawsisar village, in the Lonkhin area of Hpakant Township in Kachin State, for K30 million.
A large chunk of his business is now in Hpakant, whose famous jade mines have caused environmental ruin, and the company has a permanent office in the state capital, Myitkyina.
“Because the flow of the Uru River is impeded by the dumping of waste from jade mines, people living along the river have faced annual floods for decades,” he said.
He added that last year his company raised a government school in Hpakant town, where flooding during the rainy season frequently forces schools to close.
“That was our biggest project,” he said. “The government spent K100 million for the school to be raised by seven feet.”
He said most of the buildings that his company lifted or relocated were in areas prone to flash flooding.
“I notice that people across the country are facing such conditions,” he said.