Dala township residents who agreed to accept compensation in exchange for land needed for a long-awaited bridge are hoping to get paid before the new government takes office.

Of the 68 landowners affected, 66 have now agreed the terms offered following protracted negotiations last year. Both sides settled on K130 million for each 40-by-60-foot plot. The landowners had expected to be paid by the end of last year, but grew anxious when the payouts were not forthcoming. Now, as the lifespan of the current government runs out, they want to get their money before the change of administration in March.

“There were protracted discussions in mid-2015, but we reached agreement in October. We’d like to receive the compensation in January or February, before the new government comes in,” said Dala resident U Toe Toe Aung.

The planned 2243-metre bridge is set to transform sleepy and remote Dala by bringing it within 10 minutes’ drive of downtown Yangon. Tall enough to allow ships to pass beneath, the US$168 million suspension bridge will be built with the aid of a $138 million loan from South Korea, which hopes to start construction this year and complete the bridge in 2020.

The authorities said they had wanted to pay compensation as promptly as possible to ensure good relations with local residents and avoid the complaints of tardy or inadequate payments that had marred development projects elsewhere.

The committee set up to liaise with residents announced that plot measurements were completed in September and the following month said that payments were imminent.

U Tin Hlaing, chair of the Dala township development support committee, said they were now aiming for the second week of February. He attributed the delay to disputes over the exact amount to be paid.

“This compensation will be paid from the budget of the Ministry of Construction. When the date is fixed, the authorities and the media will be invited. Over the past few months, we have managed to reduce the number of landowners who refused to accept compensation from six to two – that is, 66 people out of 68 have now agreed. We will try to pay the compensation before the new government takes office,” he said.

The highly anticipated bridge has fuelled a rush of real estate agents and developers speculating that the township could see property value sky-rocket with commuters looking for a quiet, residential area. Property experts have cautioned against too much optimism, however, because while the township is geographically near to downtown Yangon, it will take time to develop. The bridge project is slated to also include a water-supply pipeline for Dala, which faces drinking water shortages during dry season.

Link: http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/national-news/yangon/18556-dala-residents-fret-over-bridge-payouts.html