Towards pleasanter cities, towns, and villages

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[dropcap font=”0″][/dropcap]It is good news that Yangon City Development Council is giving serious attention to making the city a cleaner and pleasanter place. It is distributing garbage bins imported from abroad to its townships.Its workers are taking great pains to keep places where people come to relax, spick and span, such as the Inya bund on Pyay Road, which is very popular with both the young and old. Ithas announced that it would be giving an award to the cleanest township from amongst its townships every four months as incentive to sustain cleanliness.Moreover, parks and gardens in the city are also being redesigned to enhance their beauty and exercise facilities have been introduced. Roads and pavements too are being repaired for the convenience of Yangon’s inhabitants and visitors. Unfortunately, because of the complacency, and lack of financial resources, law enforcement, foresight, good planningand effective management in the past, large tracts of cities, towns and villages including those in Yangonregion still remain to be improved. Yangon region has now set a good example to the rest of the regions in Myanmar in trying to tackle its problems creatively and others should study it.
Due to increase in migration from rural areas, the population of cities and towns are spiraling and challenging the capacity of authorities in expanding facilities and improving services. For success of any initiative taken to improve the conditions of cities, towns and villages, it is vital for the people living in them to bearsome of the responsibilities and participate in the activities actively. In my view, there are four most basic, but key areas to which residents of a city, town or village can make contributions for its sustained development.
The first is matters concerning the promotion of cleanliness and tidiness of cities, towns and villages. Although it is a simple matter that does not require much effort to control, many people thoughtlessly throw rubbish and spit betel juice wherever they like, even in religious precincts and public parks. Furthermore, one can also see back lanes close to the main roads filled with mountains of rubbish,some even touching the windows on the ground floor, thrown by tenants from the various floors of buildings. However,neither the people who live on the ground floor northe local municipal authorities seem to be take note of,or bothered by the foul smell or theunpleasant sight. Similarly, there are houses, some belonging to government departments,whosegardens areovergrown with grass and weeds and the hedges are unkempt. In spite of this, no one seems to feel that these depressing sights warrant some kind of action. The apathy may be because people either have become so used to such sights, or else they may feel that they have no responsibility to maintain their surroundings.To counter thisindifference regarding cleanliness and neatness that affects the image of the city, firstly, authorities concerned and social organizations  need to educate peopleto value their surroundings, to bear their civic responsibilities and follow the existing lawsby the.  Secondly, from the very first day at school, children shouldbe trained to refrain from littering and to take care of their surroundings, and the training should be reinforced throughout their yearsat school and university, and at work. Thirdly, action needs to be taken in accordance with the law, if gentle persuasion and education do not work.
The second matter concerns the maintenance of houses and buildings.One of the reasons why our cities and townslookdecrepit is because many of the houses and buildings have been left unrepaired and unpainted for many years. While it is understandable that those living in less affluent areas may not have the money to spare on the maintenance of their houses, one cannot understand why buildings are not well-maintained, or regularly painted in the more prosperous commercial areas, with the improvement in the economy and the vast amount of profits that traders and entrepreneurs are making these days.The shabby and unpleasant appearanceof cities and towns creates a bad impression, and makes foreigners thinkthat the country is more poverty-stricken than it actually is. Since it is one of the main responsibilities of the respective development councils to transform the city or town under their charge into a clean, green and pleasant place, it is necessary that the officials concerned are not reluctant to make people living in affluent and commercial areas,who have the means for theupkeep their premises, to keep buildings well-maintained, especially to repaintthem regularly in accordance with municipal laws.
The third matter concerns the “annexation” of pavements by shopkeepers to extend their shops, to open stalls,to place things like huge transformers, concrete seats, flower pots, and even to parkcars. This not only makes the place look chaotic and filthy, but also forces pedestrians to use the road causing them great convenienceand endangering their lives. In the evenings, in some areas in the city centre, vendors boldly encroach on the road and set up stalls causing unnecessary traffic congestions and delays. This public nuisance demands stricter action from municipal authorities as well as solutions. One answer is to provide alternative open space for pavement hawkers to sell the whole day, and to restrict them to the designated places, another answer is toclose off some roads to traffic in the eveningsand allow vendors to use them, like in many countries, and the thirdansweris to make pavement vendorsstrictly abide by the laws and to educate them on the consequences of their actions and the need to developself-discipline in the interest of all concerned.
The three problems highlighted are difficult to solve,both in urban as well as rural areas,and some of the reasons may be the long ingrained habits, lowlevel of consideration for others, greed and selfishness.For urban and rural transformations to succeed, active participation and cooperation of the people living in cities, towns and villages, awareness building of civic responsibilities,promotion of appreciation of a clean and neat environment, and guidance from community leaders and social organizations will be important factors.At the same time, officials of development councils will need to strictly abide by and enforce laws, locate more funds, increase financial input, recruit more staff, study experiences of other countries facing similar problems, and use creative thinking, dedication and persistence in the effort to make cities, towns and villages a more pleasant, clean and safe place for people of all strata to live in, work, bring up their children and for them to be take pride in.

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