Heritage preservation potential boost for tourism


Basic Education High School No 6, Botahtaung – has been presented the 17th commemorative Blue Plaque by the Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT). Aung Htay Hlaing / The Myanmar Times

“We are preserving heritage buildings in Yangon numbering about 200 buildings … We also plan to preserve and renovate … the old Ministry of Hotels and Tourism Office building and the Secretariat without doing any damage to [their] heritage value.  It [the project] would be supervised directly by the regional government,” the chief minister said.

Yangon Regional Government, in cooperation with Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT) and Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), is heading the installation of blue plaques at buildings for preservation and commemoration.

Currently, 17 blue plaques have been installed at buildings, and plans to install about 100 more blue plaques are underway.

Furthermore, YHT has already submitted to Yangon Region Government a catalogue of heritage buildings which has listed about 160 buildings, and mostly state-owned buildings, for Yangon’s heritage preservation, explained Daw Moe Moe Lwin, YHT director.

She added that now the old Ministry of Hotels and Tourism Office building is under the management of the Yangon Region government and the YHT is also trying to garner support from various organisations.

“We hope that the building … can [help] make up renovation costs, [and] would be available for the public [to visit] as well,” she spoke to the Myanmar Times.

The management of the Secretariat building has been supervised by the committee jointly established by representatives from the Yangon regional government and the YHT. The committee has invited companies interested to submit renovations plans for tender.

“This building is more than 120 years old, so it is very important not to damage it during renovation. For the preservation of the building, it [construction work] would need to be systematic and specialised,” said Daw Moe Moe Lwin.

Other heritage buildings have headed toward different destinies. One of the oldest schools in the city – Basic Education High School No 6, Botahtaung which was presented the 17th commemorative Blue Plaque by the YHT earlier this month, is still a school, while the old Burma Railways headquarters, which dates back to the 1880s, is part of Yoma Central, a real estate development project located on a 10-acre site and involving more than US$600 million of investment.

More than 15 years ago, the YCDC drew up a heritage list comprising 189 historical buildings in Yangon based on a survey conducted in 1996. Buildings on the list can only be renovated with permission from the committee and renovation work must not change their original design and appearance. The list is limited, however, because it does not include any privately held properties or entities.

Back in 2012, industry experts told the Myanmar Times that tourism-related businesses represented an obvious use for many old buildings and that colonial landmarks should be saved to bolster the city’s tourism potential. Preservation could be seen as an investment in Yangon’s future.

With little details released, it remains to be seen whether the 200-building preservation plan would be an effective way to develop tourism, both in the short term and in the long run.