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Rangoon authorities clamp down on illegal buildings

Rangoon authorities have warned land owners that they must seek official permission before erecting new buildings in Burma’s commercial capital or risk legal action, in an attempt to clamp down on illegal construction projects.

The Rangoon city municipal’s engineering department issued a reminder to proprietors following media allegations blaming an increase in unauthorised developments on government inefficiency in processing building permits.

In an interview with DVB, Maung Maung Zaw, director of the Rangoon Municipal Engineering Department (Building) insisted that the process can be carried out in 45 days.

“Buildings constructed on leased land will have no limitation on the number of floors. However, some plots of land in Rangoon [have had their ownership transferred] under ‘informal contracts’ and buildings constructed on these plots will be only allowed to have maximum three floors,” said Maung Maung Zaw.

“If we are given the right paperwork and the projects meet our criteria, we can immediately process and issue the permit within 45 days.”

He said the department receives over 50 applications for construction permits every day but about 20 of them were for land plots with informal contracts.

The majority of unauthorised constructions can be found in Thingangyun, Hlaing, Mayangone and South Okkalapa townships, with over 500 illegal constructions in Thingangyun township alone, according to government figures. Maung Maung Zaw blamed building contractors for “luring” proprietors into investing in the projects by misinforming them about existing laws and regulations.


“There is an increase in the number of unauthorised buildings because [contractors] are luring people into investing in these projects – mostly in suburban areas,” he said, adding that the municipal authorities are planning to take legal action against contractors who manage illegal constructions.

Currently, the construction of high rise buildings in areas designated as so-called “quiet neighbourhoods” – wealthy areas reserved for residential buildings – as well as the vicinity of the Shwedagon Pagoda premises, Rangoon Zoo and the Rangoon regional parliament building, is prohibited.

Rangoon has seen an influx of foreign investment following a string of democratic reforms in Burma, which prompted most western countries to lift most economic sanctions. But the country’s emergence as a new economic frontier has driven up property prices to exorbitant levels.

New housing projects and high rises have popped up across the city, with many businessmen and entrepreneurs scrambling to take advantage of the booming housing market.

Analysts say that part of the problem is that large portions of land and property held by the military junta has not been released into the market and remains unused.


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