Back to the Future - How Heritage Is Key to Yangon's Prosperity
by Blake Johnson Jul 06, 2017
Many people feel shocked when calling Yangon as the City of the Future. It is because that this Burma's main port and biggest city is a bit of a mess.
After many years of slow decay of Burma's economic, Yangon has no much change. It is the place of crumbling buildings sprout black mould and green bushes. However, like some other cities in Myanmar, Yangon attracts tourists by its ancient charm. Decades of undeveloped economy have unwittingly preserved Yangon to turn it into a chance for the future.
For those who live and work in Yangon, it is still a barely functional city, but its romance and grandeur. The infrastructure is in bad condition and the traffic can be horrendous. And, many of the grand old colonial-era structures are threatened in Myanmar's tropical climate.
Because of those reasons, Yangon Heritage Trust has become more and more important. In recent years, Yangon Heritage Strategy has been one the most far-sighted documents in Myanmar. In the city "strategies", many governments spend time on writing them more than carrying out. However, this strategy seems to be different. It maps out a potential future for Yangon to grow, develop and become one of the most dynamic and distinctive cities in Asia.
Yangon Heritage Trust is led by a Burmese historian named Thant Myint-U. He talked about the aims of this:
"Yangon doesn't have to be a museum frozen in time nor a soulless jungle of concrete and steel; there is a middle path that can transform it into a prosperous, regionally competitive and creative metropolis. Yangon's residents can enjoy all the advantages of modern infrastructure while retaining the social and economic benefits of their unique and irreplaceable heritage".
"Having a set of well-conserved heritage assets will mean Yangon is a green, diverse, unique and beautiful city. With good urban planning, residents can also enjoy the benefits of modern infrastructure. All this has the potential to transform Yangon into a liveable regional hub able to attract talent, investment and business."
To put them into practice is immensely challenging. Many of the owners don't have incentive to invest in their preservation.
Constructed in 1902 and also known as the place leader Aung San and colleagues were murdered in 1947, the Minister's Building is conserved. It is struggling to find its preservation. In spite of enthusiastic owners and a detailed preservation plan, the building still gets troubles of Yangon's fading bricks and mortar and the lack of economic viability. Even if politicians and officials buy it for their benefits, it is necessary to find skillful people to save and redecorate the glory of this architecture from the damage of a monsoon climate.
In the period of training enough people to preserve these structures, there is an important ally in Turquoise Mountain Myanmar. It is a charity supported by HRH Prince Charles working to preserve Burmese crafts. They also support Yangon Heritage Trust skills to save historic downtown area in Yangon.
The Yangon Heritage Trust wants to make Yangon become "one of Asia's most liveable and regionally competitive cities by 2030" to attract investors, tourists and businesses.
Most of the Heritage Trust's work contains an implicit threat. So get a chance now and make a holistic plan, or face with a thousand ugly and boring developments.
"If Yangon does not protect its current assets, the city's leaders and residents will regret it."
Despite the impact of British imperialism, the Burmese want to see it crumble away. We sincerely support the aims of the Yangon Heritage Trust and wish that tourists who have visited Yangon and fell in love with the city would help propagate its vision and draw international attention so that Yangon city could come closer to the realization of its plan.
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