Keeping it local: Engaging communities in climate resilience projects in Yangon
By PhyoPhyo Wai, Jose Arianne Gonzales, and Marino Deocariza
Building community resilience to the impacts of climate change is essential in ensuring that vulnerable cities can thrive and survive but involving the community in the process is equally critical.
Myanmar’s capital, Yangon, is vulnerable to several types of disasters, including cyclones, floods, drought, and heatwaves. These events are likely to get worse with climate change as Yangon will also experience increased temperature, extreme weather events, and sea-level rise resulting in saltwater intrusion on coastal areas. The impact of these hazards, shocks, and stresses is exacerbated by unregulated urban development and the loss of green spaces and vegetation cover in the city. In addition, poorly maintained urban infrastructure and inadequate urban service provisions (such as water supply, solid waste management, drainage, and sanitation) increase risk exposure to the residents of the city, limiting their ability to be resilient to impacts and lowering their quality of life.
In July 2020, the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) and Oxfam Great Britain, along with local partner Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), launched the ADB-RETA 9329: Promoting Urban Resilience in Selected Asian Cities–Developing of Pilot Activities and Project Development Support (Subproject 3) or the Community-Led Project (CLP) - in Yangon, Myanmar. This project aims to support poor urban communities through an inclusive resilience planning process - especially women, youth and vulnerable groups - to enhance their well-being even in the face of the impacts caused by disasters and climate change shocks and stressors.
Inclusive and participatory planning
The UCCRTF project is piloting approaches to integrate community-led projects into ongoing or planned ADB projects. The inclusive and participatory workshop brought together city stakeholders to select a climate-vulnerable community in which to pilot the project implementation. Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) plays a significant role in building climate-resilient and sustainable urban systems in Yangon with support from the regional and national government. Thirty-one city stakeholders from the YCDC attended, as well as other Yangon Regional Departments and development partners, and 21 online participants from ADB, UCCRTF, Oxfam GB, and ADPC.
Through the consultation process, stakeholders were able to share their experience and expertise, which guided project design and pilot community selection. City stakeholders and government representatives expressed a strong commitment to the project after the workshop.
“Normally we, as government personnel, are only approached after organizations have already decided upon the project areas themselves - without hearing local voices and without getting any ideas from us. This is my very first experience participating in this kind of inclusive and transparent workshop, and having a chance to select the project’s areas with having our ideas,” said Daw Saw Sandar Oo Deputy Director, YCDC Urban Planning Authoritym.
The workshop also enabled city stakeholders to identify people to sit on the Community Stakeholders’ Group (CSG). The CSG will lead the implementation of the project in the pilot community, as well as establish agreed criteria for selecting the implementation actions for a community-led project that will be delivered as part of the project.
Zaw Win Aung Assistant Director, YCDC Water Resources and Water Supply Authority, who was one of the participants, stressed the importance of community-led initiatives for developing capacity and ownership of urban development processes. “Community-led projects have the potential of bringing knowledge and skills to the community,” he said. “This can enable them to become accountable leaders and result in innovative ideas that build the capacities of community stakeholder groups”.
Bringing hope to Dala Township
Dala Township has been selected by city stakeholders for the pilot project after being voted as the most vulnerable township in Yangon. Dala has also been considered the most suitable project site by scoring highest in five of the six selection indicators.
Dala Township is located on the southern bank of Yangon River and is prone to regular flooding and riverbank erosion. In 2008, 83 percent of Dala was inundated by Cyclone Nargis. The community also regularly suffers from water scarcity, lacking in a reliable source of potable and domestic water. The township is also known to have high poverty rate and has several informal settlements.
The people of Dala have been experiencing the impacts of climate change. But these hardships will soon be turned into opportunities after being identified by the government and YDCD as an area for future development. Dala Township is expected to experience positive changes in the coming years as the community, assisted by UCCTRF, will work to build climate resilience and improve the lives of its people.