Urban Myanmar by Carol Rudy Myanmar is growing in many ways! The country has come a long way from a nation with a turbulent past to a charming modern country with cosmopolitan cities and a host of booming towns, all well on their way to having modern transportation and other essential infrastructure. As a country that was once closed off for decades, Myanmar is moving rapidly towards urbanisation and is opening its doors to both foreign dollars and visitors. Metropolitan Growth Myanmar is beginning to climb towards better infrastructure with plans to improve highways, railways, ports and public transportation. One such initiative is the development on the first railway line between Yangon and Mandalay, starting from Yangon-Taungoo railroad section. The refinement project aims to shorten the travel time between these two cities from 10 to 8 hours. This benefits the people of Myanmar as more opportunities will rise with the commercial capital being connected to the cultural capital, effecting the smaller economies along its path positively. The project is still ongoing, along with the emergence of more sophisticated hotels and guest houses to encourage the visitation of foreign travellers to the country. There is also a plan to construct an elevated road connecting southern to northern Yangon. This relieves traffic congestion in Yangon and bridges businesses and communities at the same time, impacting the lives of many locals. Along with urban planning, the country will be more accessible and this will see a significant rise in the number of tourists. New restaurants and cafes being constructed in the main regions of Myanmar will pique the interest of younger travellers to visit these places. This will increase youth’s interest in the country and hence, attracting a more diverse age range of travellers. Boosting the Economy As one of the world’s largest teakwood supplier, Myanmar’s teak wood exports have contributed to the economy, along with exports of other products such as dried beans and gems. The nation is also the key trading partner with its neighbouring countries: Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, India and China, with the latter country as the main purchaser of Myanmar jadeite. Managing the country’s main export products, such as teak plantations, mining jade and precious stones, and harvesting and processing dried beans also provides tonnes of opportunities to the people of Myanmar who are skilled in these areas to utilise their knowledge and contribute to the country’s economy. Towards a Better Living Myanmar is also improving the quality of its people’s lives. Residents in rural areas are receiving better electricity supply. The government is also taking substantial lengths to provide aid to more than 400,000 squatters, including rehousing them and diminishing floods in cities. The government is also working towards demolishing crime and illegal development. The nation is also working towards providing a better living environment to its people, as big cities like Yangon is starting to initiate movements to curb the rising concerns of solid waste. The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) is assisting Yangon to manage solid waste, one of their practices including an ‘Integrated Solid Waste Management Framework’, in which the waste will be collected and reused. The waste will then be sorted through treatment, recycling and composting that will minimize the damage on the environment. This also benefits the tourism industry as more tourists would want to visit a clean and modernized country that cares for the living condition of its people and their foreign guests. Myanmar has great potential waiting to be explored. With urbanization evidently growing in Myanmar, it is just a matter of time before the country puts itself in the eyes of the world as a travel destination that tops everyone’s bucket list. Give it a few years and watch Myanmar closely as it makes its way to the top as a booming Asian country.