In 2012 a group of architects, historians, businesspeople and others banded together to form the Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT) as a last ditch attempt to preserve Yangon’s unique character. This was a time when Myanmar was exiting from decades of isolation and Yangon was experiencing intense development pressure with no effective planning framework to protect its considerable built heritage. Many of its heritage buildings were crumbling and in danger of being torn down.
The early mission of YHT was to raise awareness about the city’s heritage assets and to encourage government authorities to protect them. This advocacy – using national and international media and persuasion – gained traction at the national and regional level with a change in government. The Yangon City Development Committee began to move away from supporting demolition of heritage buildings.
By mid-2013 YHT became increasingly focused on broader urban planning issues. This expanding scope stems from the realisation that the economic and social benefits of conservation must be clear to decision makers and the public. In early 2014 it drafted a set of proposed first generation regulatory tools including a Yangon Heritage Conservation law, a heritage planning framework and guidelines for managing change to heritage places and conservation areas.
The product of this analysis is the Yangon Heritage Strategy: Combining Conservation and Development to Create Asia’s Most Liveable City which puts forward a vision for Yangon. Working with local partners and government bodies, the Trust has assisted Yangon to achieve what no other city of its scale and economic importance has in the Asian region: avoiding a wave of unregulated demolitions which have dismembered so many other historic cities.