Yangon Trust guards heritage

YANGON, 29 May 2017: Yangon Heritage Trust claims Yangon has nearly 6,000 heritage buildings across the city that require checking and registering to ensure the city’s heritage is preserved.

Irrawaddy media reported so far the YHT has logged nearly 6,000 heritage buildings—some dating back to the British colonial era.

YHT’s director and vice chairperson, Daw Moe Moe Lwin, was quoted saying the number will soon be higher as the survey is expanding to other townships in Yangon that have old buildings.

“We documented every old building that is architecturally and historically significant — from religious buildings to government buildings and even private residences.”

The survey was done by photographic observations of the exterior of the buildings and their whereabouts, she said.

“The survey can help us understand the urban heritage of the city. It can help in many ways… in city planning, mapping and tourism. Of course, it can make officials be more considerate when it comes to development, too.”

The survey comes at a time when Yangon’s heritage buildings are threatened by development. Some heritage buildings have been torn down in the past to make way for modern buildings, the report said.

Tourism is identified as one of the drivers that accelerates the destruction of historical buildings. As the city becomes more popular, buildings are torn down to make way for hotels, condominiums and offices. Owners of old buildings in downtown districts are keen to cash in the value of their properties without considering their value to the city’s heritage. They often go into partnerships with foreign hotel investors by providing the land while the  foreign company  concentrates on the investment in a new building and its management.

If expansion continues without controls to save historic buildings, the city will lose its character that distinguishes it from other Asian cities. This has led to YHT’s campaign to highlight the need to preserve the city’s heritage.

Founded in 2012 to preserve Yangon’s architectural legacy, YHT was also praised by Prime Minister Thein Sein in 2013 for its preservation efforts.

Since then, YHT has intervened to stop the demolition of pre-1960 buildings in the downtown area of Yangon and campaigned to stop other new developments that might affect the city’s historic character.

At the request of the government, YHT drafted a law on urban conservation in 2013 that would help protect the city’s heritage.

YHT awards Blue Plaques to distinguish Yangon top architectural landmarks. Blue Plaques are permanent signs installed at a public place to commemorate a link between the location and a famous person, event, or landmark. They serve as a kind of historical marker.

Sites that have received Blue Plaques include the City Hall, AYA Bank, Armenian Church, Central Fire Station, General Post Office, Myanma Agricultural Development Bank, Central Press, Sofaer Building, GTI Insein, Maha Bandoola Park, Merchant road building, Indian Embassy, Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue, YWCA Building, Bogyoke Aung San Market, St Paul’s High School, and Yangon Stock Exchange.

The commemorative Blue Plaque is part of YHT’s efforts to protect Yangon’s architectural and cultural heritage.