MM Times: A trip inside Yangon’s back alleys

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How the city’s back alleys became what they are, and a glimpse at what they could become.

Yangon’s back alleys were not always the open sewer they are today.

Thirty years ago, they were a shortcut helping residents to move around their neighborhood more easily.

Though not always clean and pristine, they were at least practical. Today, alleys are blocked by huge piles of trash.

What happened?

Space-hungry Yangon saw the height of its buildings go up. As the residences grew higher, the residents grew tired of going up and down the stairs, so they started to throw their rubbish out of the windows. The era of trashy back alleys began.

“In the past, people living in houses owned them,” recalls a local councilor from Kyauktada township. “We all knew each other very well back then, and it would not have crossed anyone’s mind to throw their rubbish around”.

“But renting became popular, and tenants started to be less careful,” says the 61-year-old. With people coming and going for shorter periods of time, neighborhoods were treated less like homes and social links deteriorated.

Our newly recovered freedom enables us to grumble and criticise more freely. But most of all, it allows us to initiate projects like Doh Eain’s back alleys. Dissatisfied with the way things are? Just change them. READ MORE