Friday, September 22, 2017

Yangon govt mulls new “high-class” sidestreet markets

The Yangon Region government is planning a range of measures to make Yangon more livable, including developing the waterfront into public space and moving vendors onto quieter side streets and into planned ‘hawker centres’.

Downtown Yangon as seen from a ship in Yangon River. Photo: Zarni Phyo / The Myanmar TimesDowntown Yangon as seen from a ship in Yangon River. Photo: Zarni Phyo / The Myanmar Times

U Phyo Min Thein, Yangon Chief Minister, said last week that the government was planning to improve the Yangon river waterfront area to make it more accessible for the public.

“We will turn Yangon waterfront into a public space, so we will remove the brick wall along the waterfront and replace it with a fence so that people can see the river,” he said.

The chief minister was speaking at a press conference for the Yangon Living Street Experience, which was held last weekend.

U Phyo Min Thein added that the 1.4 kilometre waterfront area had many old warehouses that the government would renovate, allowing shopping malls or hawker centres to open so that “people can feel free at the waterfront and relax at the shops”.

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The development of the waterfront would be done step-by-step until the whole area is publicly accessible, he said. Some areas are being used for private companies – mostly for trading and storage businesses – that were given their opportunity by the previous government, he said. The new region government is in discussions with those firms about how to adapt the space for the benefit of ordinary people, the chief minister said.

“We are discussing how they can join with us to develop the waterfront not only for private [business] but also for the public,” he said.

The region government is also hoping to use the recent Yangon Living Street Experience event to test out new arrangements for street vendors. Several special market areas were set up for the event on quieter side streets in downtown. The government is surveying people on their impressions about whether the new arrangements are convenient for the long-term, said Naw Pan Thinzar Myo, Regional Minister of Karen Ethnic Affair.

“If we get positive result from the survey, we will continue these streets as night life markets for restaurants, street art or performances, and souvenir shops,” she said, but added that the proposed spaces would not be like the new market on Strand Road, rather they would be slightly more “high-class” outlets that would appeal to tourists.

The region government’s Strand Road night market is designed to ease congestion by relocating streetside vendors, but has sparked a wave of opposition and complaint from sellers that do not want to move.

Further relocations are planned, however. For those sellers unable to be accommodated in the night market, the regional government is planning to build ‘hawker centres’ around Theingyi Zay (Market) in Latha township, said Daw Hling Maw Oo, secretary of Yangon City Development Committee, which is managing the new night market.

According to YCDC there are 6,041 street vendors in Yangon, and more than 1,600 food and fruit sellers have been relocated to the night market on Strand Road and Maha Bandula Park road.

YCDC and the Myanmar Architects Association are arranging how to upgrade Mingalar Market with a hawker centre, a car parks and commercial buildings, she added. YCDC plans to hold a design competition for private companies to present potential plans at the end of this year, she said.

The Yangon Region government also plans to upgrade all of the 176 YCDC-managed markets across Yangon in the next five years, according to U Phyo Min Thein.

Additional reporting by Zay Yar Linn