Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Myanmar Day 2

On the second day, people from the British Council and different organzations/companies/institutions from Asia (Myanmar, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Phillipines India and Vietnam) and Europe (Denmark, Sweden, Poland, UK and Germany) gathered again at the British Club to start the activities around four different tracks: education, public health, environment and tourism and heritage. More photos here!

We did informal visits during the day so that we could reflect about the social opportunities and challenges in Yangon proposing enterprising solutions. We were taken around the city to understand the sector and by the end of the day we presented some ideas to local potential social entrepreneurs and emerging leaders.

I was attracted by the Education track but finally chose the Tourism and Heritage one encouraged by Tristan Ace. Our hosts were Shun Lei Swe Yee and Cham Tha Kyaw. We started with a meeting at the Yangon Heritage Trust at Kandawgyi tower, a recently formed group who are currently working on how to preserve the colonial architecture in Yangon. The group is led by Than Myint U, a leading historian.
  • Some thoughts on this:
    • Buildings from 200 years ago are well protected, mostly religious sites, but buildings from 1960s are not and this is what they would like to focus on
    • They need government regulations for urban planning
    • There are not enough technical skills in architects/builders
    • They will have a hearitage conference in June to formulate the way forward, bringing people from abroad, trying to combine the new with the old
    • When seeing the buildings we realized that some of them are not in use, some are in use by official authorities or companies, and some are being used as normal houses so the motivations for this three different type of users to maintain these buildings will be different
    • What about the intangibles of heritage that needs "protection" and that are not buildings?
We also visited the Bogyioke Market briefly and we did a walking tour of Pansodan Road, discovering the best examples of colonial architecture in Yangon. We also went to Latha Township (China Town), one of the most energetic areas seen as with great potential for tourism. We saw many things that social entrepreneurs and the government could start working on right away:
  • Community-based and eco-tourism (example from Madrid: Alice Faveau from Focus on Women)
  • Lowering property taxes to people and companies that mantain their buildings properly
  • Renovate one as an example creating value to local community
  • Make video mapping and documentation to give visibility
  • Create a good quality yet cheap taxi meter to sell to taxis-owners for tourists not to have to negotiate every trip
  • Do something about trash recycling as currently trash is on the streets, very near food and where people live daily
  • Riverside development: Currently the city turns its back to the river, they could open it more and make it a place tourists would like to visit!
  • The main important thing we see is to be having these conversations now to be able to face development with the right tools instead of just doing it as in other asian countries, there is a lot to learn from their experiences!
  • More ideas in our presentation (will include the link when I get it)
For some reasons I thought it would be great if these guys got in touch with Jessica Chandler from Cinema for Peace Foundation (for the video and documentation project) and invite the Hub network´s architects and interior designers (Cristina Rebolo, Andrea Paoletti, Oliver Marlow, Josemaría de Churtichaga+Quadra-Salcedo) to the conference in June although their agendas might be full already!

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