The Asia Foundation and Renaissance Institute Host Workshop with Municipal Officials of the Shan State Government

Municipalities gather to discuss landfill management and other urban challenges

A man speaks in front of many people at a workshop

Development Affairs Minister U Sai Son Hsai opening the workshop where he highlighted the importance of improving transparency in the DAOs’ work

Taunggyi, May 10, 2018 — The Asia Foundation and Renaissance Institute recently hosted a workshop bringing together 150 municipal officers and Chief Engineers from all 77 municipalities of Shan State to learn from each other and from international experiences.

As Yangon’s great garbage fire made news headlines, Shan State’s municipal authorities, known as Development Affairs Organizations (DAO), agreed that improving waste management was a priority and shared examples of good practices within the state. DAOs are the equivalent of municipal authority outside of Yangon and Mandalay. They raise their own revenues through taxes, fees and licenses and deliver services (mainly garbage collection, roads and bridges, street lighting, sewers and drainage) to the citizens of their cities.

The Asia Foundation and Renaissance Institute have been working with DAOs to improve urban service delivery, raise municipal revenues, and improve communication between government and the public. A key objective of the workshop was to “exchange and learn from each other,” a point emphasized by Shan Development Affairs Minister U Sai Son Hsai. Group discussions and scenario exercises on topics such as municipal revenues, mapping garbage routes and property tax created space for the participants to exchange experiences on areas for reform and improvement.

In his opening remarks, U Sai Son Hsai reminded participants of the importance of transparency in their work. By improving communication about their work and what taxes are, how they are collected and spent, DAOs can improve their relationship with residents, gain their trust and trigger positive feedback and actions, such as the willingness to pay taxes. Participants agreed that raising municipal revenues should be a priority so that DAOs can fund the improvements in municipal services provided to the people.

At the workshop, the DAOs of Kalaw, Muse and Hsipaw presented on challenges they face in waste management and the reforms they have taken to improve landfill management and reduce illegal garbage dumping. Tun Thet Aung, The Asia Foundation’s mapping analyst and garbage reform lead, presented the fundamentals of landfill management. This covered decisions on site selection and the criticality of landfill design, reducing organic content being collected, and covering the waste collected with soil on a daily basis to reduce methane gas emissions. All of these steps can reduce the risk of fire and address other environmental concerns, which State Director U Sai Tun Tun raised as a key challenge for municipal authorities in Shan State.

A consistent message from workshop participants was that in addition to improving their own waste collection services, municipalities needed to work better with residents to reduce illegal dumping and improve the cleanliness of cities. Better communication with residents on the consequences of illegal dumping was suggested as one way to combat bad habits, and trigger new practices of recycling and proper disposal of waste. In a workshop exercise, participants explored different ways of communicating, and defined housewives (who are generally responsible for disposing of garbage) and children as the most appropriate target groups when building an outreach campaign. Ideas for campaign communication activities included education workshops in schools and community events.

Two people working together to fill a garbage truck

Daily garbage collection in a Shan city

The workshop was funded through the support of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Swiss Development Cooperation.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.

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Related locations: Myanmar
Related programs: Good Governance

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