YCDC tackles side-street clean-up
SHACKS, tips, hovels and huts are being removed from Yangon’s alleys as the city authorities extend their efforts to clean up the streets. Yangon City Development Committee says homeowners and tenants are being cooperative, but that anyone who resists could end up in prison.
The clearance program, which began mid-August, is being carried out in the city’s six downtown townships, with the help of ward authorities and building owners. City authorities say the clean-up project will later be expanded to cover the whole city.
“Many townships are now working to clean up the back-streets. The owners of the huts and outbuildings have been ordered to move them, subject to penalties under municipal law. The huts will soon be gone,” a senior YCDC official told The Myanmar Times on September 2.
Clearance work began on August 15 in Lanmadaw, Latha, Pabedan, Kyauktada, Botahtaung and Pazundaung townships.
“The public owns the streets, including the back-streets. We told the people responsible for the violations that they would have to be removed. In the past, the back-streets were clean. But now they are dirty, and people avoid them. We had to act. These streets should be at the disposal of people going about their normal business,” said the official.
A 2003 law forbids blocking, fouling, destroying or dividing the public roads, and lays down penalties accordingly, including a fine of up to K500,000 and a year in prison. There is provision for granting applications to build structures on the road under certain circumstances.
Now the city has put up 200 notice boards announcing its intention to enforce the law against blocking the streets.
Pazundaung township administrator U Zaw Myint said on September 2 that work had already started to remove illegal structures blocking side-streets. “Some of the huts are inhabited by workers. We tell them what we’re doing and give them a couple of days. We’ve cleaned up three wards and 150 huts, but there will be more elsewhere. We tell the people who live in the huts what’s happening. We write to them and announce by loudspeaker that we’re going to dismantle the huts. Some wait and see if we really mean it, and when they see that we do, they actually help us destroy the huts,” he said.
Shopkeeper Ko Thar Tun said, “The municipal officials haven’t yet told us to dismantle the huts, but they are drawing up lists of places that need to be cleared. We don’t know what will happen. If they make us dismantle the huts, we’ll do it. We know what has happened in other townships.”
Many local residents have welcomed the clean-up, after years in which the streets behind their homes were fouled by rubbish and blocked by illegal structures.
“We live on the ground floor. We had to keep the back door closed because of the smell of the garbage. Now the alleys behind the apartments have been cleaned up. The problems have been solved, but it will take discipline to keep them clean,” said U Nyi Nyi Oo, who lives in ward 7, Pazundaung township.
But workers who live in the side-streets say they have no real alternatives for housing. If given eviction orders, they say they will leave the street for a couple of weeks, with the intention of returning after the officials complete the clean-up.
“If YCDC tells me to remove my house, I will remove it. But we will have to return after one or two weeks because we don’t have anywhere else to sleep or open our small shop,” said U Kyaw Kyaw, who lives on a sidestreet in Kyauktada township.
– Translation by Win Thaw Tar, San Layy and Khine Thazin Han
A girl plays on a table in a Yangon alley last year in front of graffiti that reads “Don’t pee”.