Cities around the world face the challenge of understanding why, how and where they are growing; an understanding that is crucial if they are to realise opportunities to steer this growth in ways that promote sustainable and equitable urban development. Being able to measure, visualise and analyse these often complex patterns of growth is essential to effective policy design and implementation.
It is within this context that the IGC Myanmar office has collaborated with LSE Cities on this first step towards developing a more in-depth research programme on urban development in Yangon. It has resulted in the creation of a comparative information base that will provide a strong empirical foundation for subsequent analytics and policy research. This will in turn inform strategic spatial development in the Yangon metropolitan region in the future.
Over the past decade, LSE Cities has developed a research methodology known as Urban Growth Analytics that provides a framework for this type of data-driven policy analysis. Urban Growth Analytics is based on the collection, visualisation and comparative analysis of critical urban development data, assessing two or more cities across a range of pre-defined indicators. A primary focus is on land use and infrastructure as proxies for various interrelated urban systems. In addition, and depending on data availability, socio-economic and environmental data as well as transport and mobility patterns are analysed to deepen the understanding of the relationship between spatial and social development patterns.
It is important to note that this initial research project is not an in-depth analytical assessment of urban development policies and their merits or limitations. While this is considered a crucial next step, the purpose of this piece of research is to provide an overview of available data as well as a descriptive exploration of the current state of urban development.
Following consultation with local policy makers and the IGC Myanmar team, the comparator city selected for this initial research effort was Bangkok. After assessing overall data availability, key indicators were selected for comparison between the two cities, and were subsequently used to visualise and describe a subset of important urban development patterns. Where relevant, data from other global cities was used to contextualise this information and place Yangon and Bangkok into a wider urban context.
This initial research effort should provide a strong evidence base to inform future research around urban development policies in Yangon, critical at a time when the city is facing rapid social, political and economic changes that necessitate a well-informed and strategic policy response. In this context, Bangkok provides a useful regional benchmark, having grown at a similarly rapid rate in the past and having solidified its position as a leading Southeast Asian metropolis. As this report highlights, both Bangkok’s successes and the challenges it faces can provide relevant lessons for Yangon’s future development.
Overall, this report should be a valuable resource for both scholars and practitioners. The in-depth case studies provide key information for academics interested in grappling with what is a methodologically and theoretically challenging concept. Similarly, the rich contextual analysis detailing how governments manage uncertainty – and the socio-political outcomes – offers policymakers a chance to review existing processes of governing, and governing through, an uncertain future. Even better if the project can continue to provoke further discussion and engagement.