Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Preliminary Review on the Urbanization of Bago (Pegu) Division of Myanmar (Burma)


This paper summarizes the urbanization in Bago (formerly called as Pegu) Division of Myanmar (lately named as Burma#) based on a Masters Thesis, Urbanization in Bago (Pegu) Division  (in Burmese language), submitted to the Department of Geography, Rangoon Arts and Science University, Rangoon, Burma, by the author in 1977.  Furthermore, the author has made an attempt in order to analyze the growth patterns in selected urban centers using Geographic Information System (GIS) in Google Earth environment. 

 As an urban geographer, the author spent an extensive research on urban centers of Pegu Division while he was stationed at Moulmein Degree College (now  the University of Mawlamyine, Mon State) and the Rangoon  Arts & Science University  (now Yangon University) during 1968 through 1977.  He made a new discovery of ancient towns during the feudal eras of Pyu,  Mon, and Burman in Bago Division  with the use of a series of aerial photos.  He prepared mapping stages in the spatial growths of urban centers with population over 20,000.  He submitted research papers on (a) “Urban Geography of Pegu”, (2) “A Comparison of Urban Growths among Pegu, Prome (now called Pyay), and Toungoo (now called Taungoo)”, (c) “Functional Typology Classification of Towns in Burma”, (d) “In-Migrants of Rangoon - Kamayut Township”, and (e) “Urban Geography of Pa-Ann, Capital City of Karen (now called Kayin) State”.  In his Masters research, he conducted an analysis of minimum requirements Approach to the urban economic base, and changes in urban population and their causes using 1973 Burma Census data.  He also completed identifying the service classification, and functional typography of towns and cities in Bago Division.
Aftermath of the 1973 census, the Myanmar military junta didn’t conduct any nation-wide census enumeration except for a brief, incomplete census in 1983.  Curiosity has been aroused on the status of urban growths in Myanmar after a period of more than 25 years.  There were a few estimates of Myanmar population made up by the Economic Development Planning Department, Ministry of National Planning, Myanmar, for the United Nations and World Bank funding. Recently, an opportunity has arisen as Google has posted fairly recent satellite imageries with high resolution allowing us to view the urban spatial layout of towns and cities of 2000’s.

Fortunately, the author had gathered a collection of copies of 125 land use maps of various towns and cities of Myanmar during 1970s before he left his homeland in 1982.  In this paper, he digitized the 1973 maps on the Google imageries, and made an analysis on the growth patterns of six selected urban centers in Bago Division.

Urbanization, Bago Division, spatial growth, imageries, Google Earth, urban sprawl, urban centers, 1970s Land Use Maps, 1973 Burma Census


An Overview of Studies on Urbanization in Myanmar (Burma)

The earliest urban geography in Myanmar was studied by Spate, O.H.K and Trueblood, L.W. (1942), specifically on the city of Yangon (Rangoon).  However, the earliest study on urbanization in Myanmar was conducted by Sundrum, Dr. R.M. (1957 ) in his economic research paper, namely “Urbanization: The Burmese Experience”.  This paper analyzed the changes of urban populations based on the census data in 1891 through 1953.   Lay, Khin Ma (1962) conducted a geographical research paper on “Urban Study of the Sittang Valley (now called Sittaung)” in Journal of Burma Research Society.   Htike, T. (1975) also analyzed the Myanmar urbanization using 1953 Census data.  Htike characterized the sizes, causes and patterns of urban growth briefly in his paper.  Win, U. et al (1976) submitted a geographical research paper on the comparative study of urban growth in the cities of Bago (Pegu), Pyay (Prome) and Toungoo (Taungoo).  Urban population growth, structural growth and urban problems had been reviewed on individual towns and cities by Myanmar geographers in Myanmar during 1960s and 1970s.  The urban geographical studies conducted during these years included Yangon (Rangoon), Pathein (Bassein), Mandalay, Magway (Mgwe), Dawei (Tavoy), Mawlamyein (Moulmein), Pa-Ann, Katha, Bago (Pegu), Toungoo (Taungoo), Hinthada (Henzada) and Pyin-oo-lwin (Maymyo).

Towns and Cities in Bago (Pegu) Division
During the British occupation, Bago (Pegu) Division was roughly located from 19 degree North Latitude to the Gulf of Mottama (Martaban) with an area of 12.86 million acres.  Under the rule of Revolutionary Council of Myanmar, the constitutional establishment of States and Divisions were reorganized in1970-71.  The areal acreage within Bago Division had become 9,737,043.   Division has been bordered by Kayin (Karen) and Mon States on the east, Rakhine (Arakan) State and Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) Division on the west, Magway (Magwe) and Mandalay Divisions on the north, and Ayeyarwady and Yangon (Rangoon) Divisions on the south.  (See Figure 1) 

Geographically, Bago Division is separated in the middle by the ranges of Bago Yoma (‘Yoma’ in Myanmar means mountain ranges) which is running north to south, and hence created alluvial valley plains of  the Ayeyarwady River on the west of the mountain ranges and Sittaung valley plains on the east.  According to the 1972-73 proclamation of the Ministry of Home and Religion, there were 15 towns and cities established on the western plains, and 17 on the eastern plains of the Bago Division.  (See Table - 1 below)

Urban Growth in Bago (Pegu) Division

Urban population growth:  Generally, although the alluvial plains with fertile soils for paddy cultivation were abundant the region was sparsely populated during 1872 and 1881 census years under British rules, as a result, urban population in Myanmar was low (11% of total population).  As the paddy cultivation became successful in Lower Myanmar due to high demand for rice exportation, exodus of urban population to rural areas accelerated during 1901 through 1911.  Statistically, 11.8% of total Myanmar urban population in 1901 had dropped to 9.0% in 1911.  Then, urban population has grown gradually.  According to 1973 census, urban population in Myanmar was 23.6% of the total population.  The push factor at rural areas was of rising insurgency in the rural areas until 1950s.  But the pull factor of enjoyment in urban amenities caused the growth in urban population in the 1960s. 

Particularly in Bago Division, urban population had increased from 8.33% (of total population in Bago Division) in 1901 to 19.24% in 1973.  Reclamation of floodplains   for paddy cultivation, demanding rice exportation, and introduction of railroads and road network in the region had caused a rapid increase in urban population along the transportation routes.  During a period of 1931-1953, rising Communist insurgency in the Bago Yoma (Ranges) had led to the exodus of rural population fleeing towards urban centers within Bago Division. 

(1)  Urbanization built upon ancient towns and cities:  Significant residential and  city patterns of ancient cities such as Sri Ksetra (Thayaykittaya) near Pyay, Hansawaddy (Hantharwady) in Bago, and Ketumade at Taungoo have still left in the present time cities in Bago Division.  The remnants such as walls, moats, palaces, and gates of ancient towns have been traced on the aerial photographs taken in the years before modern towns and cities have emerged.  These remnants were found at present-day Myodwin (old Thayarwady town), Thegon, Paunde, Shwedaung, Donzayit and Kunseik.  (See Figure 2 below)

(2)  Urbanization in Bago Division by Census Years:

(a)  1872 Census: There were only six towns and cities recognized in Bago Division.  Pyay (Prome) was the Ayeyarwady River navigational gateway city, and also a commercial and military center for British Administration.  Taungoo, Shwegyin and Bago (Pegu) were administrative centers.  Shwedaung and Paunde towns were manufacturing centers prosperous with domestic textile industry (let-yet-kan – a hand weaving industry).  Bago, at that time, was merely a large village.

(b)  1872-1881: Three new towns (Thonze, Gyobingauk and Letpadan) emerged as marketing centers gathering goods along the Prome-Rangoon railroad.  Population in Prome and Shwedaung decreased as people moving into newly developed agricultural lands and railway station centers along the railroads.
  Figure 2. Modern Urban Centers built upon Ancient Cities of Myanmar in Bago Division

(c)  1881-1891: Population in every towns and cities had increased.  Although small in their sizes, Gyobingauk, Letpadan and Thonze towns were promoted as administrative centers.
(d)  1891-1901: Thayarwady became enumerated as a town in this census.  While the towns along Pyay-Yangon (Prome-Rangoon) railroad has grown faster, population in Shwedaung and Pyay had decreased by 25%.  Population in Taungoo also decreased as British military depot was removed. 
(e)  1901-1911: Two new towns (Zigon and Natalin) emerged along Pyay-Yangon railroad.  On the plains east of Bago Yoma, one new town (Nyaunglebin) only emerged along the Taungoo-Yangon (Toungoo-Rangoon) railroad which was built since 1885.  Being located at the junction to Shwekyin town on the bank of Sittaung River, and being a terminal railroad station center until 1884, Nyauglebin had risen up to a town.
(f)  1911-1921:  A new town (Minhla) on the Pyay-Yangon railroad, and another new town (Phyu) along Taungoo-Yangon railroad emerged as transportation centers connecting with towns located in the floodplain areas of Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) and Sittaung Rivers.
(g)  1920-1931: Two new railway center towns (Daik-U and Pyuntaza) emerged after the completion of new railroad from Nyaunglebin to Ma-Dauk in 1929.
(h)  1931-1953:  Administratively, 83 towns were recognized as towns and cities in Bago Division.  However, many of them were merely villages with populations as low as 281, or entire dependency on agriculture, and/or without maintaining any characteristics of a town.  New towns (Monyo, Penwegon, Kyauktaga, Thanatpin, and Waw) with population more than 5,000 emerged along the railroads and major roads. 
(i)  1953-1973:  A total of 32 towns and cities with population more than 5,000 had been recognized under 1973 Census.  Within a period of 20 years, population in all towns and cities had grown two to three times.  The urban population growth had been accounted for by a push factor in the rural areas, lack of the regional security due to Communist insurgency in the Bago Yoma.

Urban ‘Push’-‘Pull’ Factors in Bago (Pegu) Division

Generally, a regular phenomenon of ‘step migration’ - population migrations from rural areas to small towns; then from towns to the cities had prevailed in Bago Division as well.  A 1975 survey conducted on the migrant families in Bago by the author revealed that 55% of them moved for economic reason; 16% for local regional insecurity; 8% for personal reasons, and 5% for pursuing better education.  There is a big gap in economic opportunities between rural and urban sectors pushing younger population in villages to towns and cities.  According to the survey interview, most of the rural labors had found to move into Bago, and worked as rickshaw drivers or cheroot (cigar like) makers.  The expanding commercial and service sectors had attracted rural population to the towns and cities.  Most importantly, easy access to health services, opportunities for vocational and educational schools, and enjoyable recreational services had pulled the rural population to the urban centers.  In other words, the rural poverty had pushed a rural-urban migration.  When Bago Division was under British occupation, anti-British (military) movements occurred in this region.  British forces destroyed hundreds of villages in Bago Division accusing them to be supportive of insurgency (known to be as Galon peasants) in the 1930s.  Bago Division had been in the military routes during 1940s under Japanese occupation during 1940s.  It was the major battle fields during major ‘Karen-Burmese Incidents’ during 1949-1951.  Bago Yoma (Ranges) had been the strongholds of the Burmese Communist Party, and became the battle grounds between Communists and Burmese military forces during 1948 through 1969.  Life in-security in the rural areas had been a force for migration pushing the rural population to urban centers constantly in Bago Division.

Types of Towns and Cities in Bago Division

A Literature Overview:
Aurousseau, M. (1921) classified active towns into (1) Administrative, (2) Defense, (3) Cultural, (4) Production, (5) Community, and (6) Recreational.  McKenzie, R.D. (1925) generalized the types of city into (1) Primary Service; (2) Commercial; (3) Industrial, and (4) Others/Recreational/Resort.  James’, H.E. (1930) dominant functions of cities in India included (1) Capital, (2) Religious, (3) Manufacturing, (4) Military Posts, (5) Inland marts, and (6) Seaports.  Hall, R.B. (1937) reviewed types of Japanese cities as (1) Castle (administrative/defense), (2) Temple/Shrine, (3) Commercial, and (4) Industrial-cum-commercial.  In 1937, Ogburn, W.F. classified the towns and cities by percentage of populations in occupation and employment.  Weimer, A.M. and Hoyt, H. (1948) analyzed urban sectors into (1) Industrial, (2) Political, (3) Commercial, (4) Recreational/Health Resort, and (5) Educational.  Harris, C.D. (1953) classified towns as (1) Manufacturing, (2) Retails, (3) Wholesale, (4) Transport, (5) Diversified, and (6) Mining.  Duncan, O.D. and Reiss, A. (1956) offered methodologies in functional classification of communities specialized in more than one function.  Efforts in developing methodologies for the classification of urban centers were made in Mukherjee’s, M. (1968) functional index, specialization index; and Singh’s, O.P. (1968) Functional Specialization Index and Functional Centrality Index.  In Evers, Hans-Dieter (1975) referred urbanization to (a) percentage of population in urban areas, and (b) the process of growth/decline.  Evers considered the process of urbanization as a step migration.   

Classification of Towns in Bago Division

(A)  Transportation:  The City of Pyay (Prome) had been the transportation center for the British since 1860 when Irrawaddy Flottila Co. with modern steam boats stationed in there.  In 1877, Pyay has become the railway terminal running from Yangon (Rangoon).  During the British occupation, a series of towns along the railroad routes have been notified as railway towns.  The railway towns in Bago Division included Thonze, Letpadan, Gyobingauk, Sitkwin, Minhla, Owethegon, Oakpo, Nattalin, Padigon, Thegon, Sinmeswe, Hmawza, Htongyi, Tawa, Payagyi, Pyinpongyi, Phaungtawthi, Dauk-U, Pyuntaza, Nyaunglebin, Painzalok, Kyauktaga, Penwegon, Kanyutkwin, Phyu, Nyaungchaydauk, Kywepwe, and Oakwin.  Bago (Pegu) has also been a hub of different transportation routes – Yangon-Mandalay railroad, Bago-Sittaung canal, and Bago-Mottama railroad.

(B) Commercial Activities:  During the time of feudalism reigned in Myanmar, vast vacant fertile land in Bago Division was sparsely populated.  Teak forest in Bago Yoma (Ranges) was not systematically extracted but Yangon, Pyay and Bago had been well known for their ship-building yards.  Bago was famous for salt, fish products, pottery, rice, spices, iron and ammunition during the 16th century.   After British occupation, agricultural production, mainly rice (paddy) became dominant due to land reclamation, and railroad and road network development in Bago Division.  Rice mill industry had flourished in every town and large village.  In 1961, there were over 400 rice mills in Bago Division.  In the 1960s, industries were specifically established in urban areas because of insurgency in rural areas.  Under the nationalization act by the military junta, number of private industries, especially the textile industry declined while a few industries such as cooking-oil mills, saw mills, and bottling mills were built by the government. 

(C)  Urban Workforce:  According to 1973 Myanmar Census, urban population under working age in Bago Division was 50% to 60%, however actual work force in urban areas was 15% to 40%. 

(D) Occupational Structure:  More than a quarter of population in small towns of Bago Division held agricultural occupations.  In 1973, Monyo (with 44% agricultural workers), Thegon (37%), Oakwin (43%), Kawa (29%), Shwekyin (29%) and Paukkhaung (28%) can be considered as agricultural towns.  The highest industrial workforce was located in Bago, the Capital City of Bago Division, as 34%.  The small towns such as Htantabin and Kyaukkyi maintained the lowest the industrial workforce with 9% and 8% respectively.  Manufacturing sector in urban areas was dominantly of cheroot making and domestic textile industries.  Whole-sale commercial activities existed only in Bago and Pyay.  Retail commercial activities in urban workforce comprised of 16% (Padaung) to 40% (Gyobingauk).  Any urban centers located at a junction held relatively high percentage of workforce in transportation, for example, 17% at Taungoo, 20% at Letpadan, and 15% at Nyaunglebin and Pyay.  An average of 9% of workforce engaged in administrative jobs in towns, but (military posts) garrison towns spiked up administrative workforce; for instance,12% in Phyu, 13% in Shwekyin, and 15% in Nyaunglebin. 
(E) Functional Classification of Urban Centers in Bago Division:  Win, U (1977) examined a methodology in classifying an economic function of an urban center using Ulman & Daccy’s (1960) identifying ratio between basic versus non-basic functions.  The significant characteristic of ‘basic’ function is the production of the urban area for the markets outside of it.  So, when an urban center is lower in non-basic ratio, urban workforce indicates the high consistency of occupations related to production of perishable goods, administration, and general services. (See Table 2 below)  Kyaukkyi, Oakpo and Htantabin were economically based on non-Basic occupations.  Bago. Pyay, Paungde, Letpadan, Dike-U, Waw, Yedashay, Shwedaung, and Monyo were composed of strong economic base.  Because of its high agricultural production for exportation, Thanatpin showed strongest economic base in the entire Division.  Win, using the urban workforce data in1973 Burma Census, identified the economic basis of urban centers with regression analysis for minimum requirement of 12 economic functions in Bago Division.   This method allowed the combination of basic economic functions of individual.  In his effort to identify the functional typology of urban centers in Bago Division, he re-classified the functions into six categories; re-classified four groups of population sizes, and derived the ‘specialization index by adding weight’.  According to his functional typological classifications, Shwegyin, Thegon, Monyo, Oaktwin, Waw and Letpadan were of ‘agricultural towns’; Minhla, Gyobingauk, Waw, Phyu, Natalin, Yedashay, Zigon and Daik-U were of ‘commercial  towns’; Kyaukkyi, Oakpo and Htantabin were of ‘services towns’;  Thanatpin and Bago were ‘perishable manufacturing towns’; Shwedaung nd Padaung were of ‘durable manufacturing town’; and Prome, Taungoo, Nyaunglebin, Paukkaung, Paungde and Kawa were of ‘diversified towns’.

Urban Growth during 1973 through 2000s:

A sample of six urban centers in Bago (Pegu) Division

The last official census of Myanmar was enumerated in 1983 but apparently was with an incomplete demographic data due to areas controlled by various insurgent groups and the inaccessibility to military junta.  Myanmar junta estimated 1983 population in Burma as 35,442,972.  The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – The World Factbook estimated for Myanmar (Burma) in 2009 was 48,147,781.  Tint, W. (1990) of Yangon Institute of Economics estimated a population projection for 2013 based on 1953 census data.  His projection for 2013 for population in Myanmar was 64, 504,950.  Tint indicated the information on internal and international migration were unknown in Burmese censuses.  According to the Ministry of National Planning, Myanmar, it was estimated that population in Myanmar was 56,515,000 in 2006.  It also estimated 17,241,000 for urban population in 2006.

It is now in 2009, there is a possibility of visualizing the spatial growth of each and every urban center due to the advancement of geo-technology and geo-technological tools.  Particularly, Google Earth (GE) technology has allowed viewers to see any location on earth if and when satellite imageries are made available for them.  Depending on the resolution of the imageries, finer and more detailed features on earth can be visualized on Google.  Thanks to imageries posted with satellite sensors taken no later than 2004 by GE, have allowed us to see the spatial extent of urban centers in Myanmar.  If the spatial extent of urban limits in 1973 is available, it is possible that spatial extent of growth of urban centers in Myanmar between 1973 and 2009 can be analyzed.  To a certain extent, the author has made an effort to be able to fill the missing information on urban growth in Myanmar graphically in this paper.

Land use maps of 1970s
During the academic years of 1960s and 1970s, both undergrads and postgraduate students under the Geography Department of Rangoon Arts and Science University (now called the University of Yangon) were required to prepare and submit a term paper/thesis focusing especially on land use studies.  Occasionally, some students submitted their papers featuring urban land uses.  Fortunately, the author had compiled copies of 125 maps showing land uses of urban centers throughout the country in 1982.  Practically, the copying process included the reduction of full-size color maps into smaller sizes, and in black and white, and re-coloring of the different land use features by hand.  A few of large maps were photographed in negative films.  Color copying machines or color photography were rarely accessible in Myanmar during the early 1980s.  Regretfully, references for publication dates were not documented during the process of making the copies. Nevertheless, the author managed to keep all his possession with him when he went for further studies in the United States. 

Satellite imageries available on Google Earth
Google Earth (GE) is a virtual map composed of mosaic of satellite imageries created by Keyhole Inc. which was acquired by Google in 2004.  Generally, the imageries covered on land areas are with a resolution of 15 meter (15m) per pixel.  However, Google replaces its base imagery with higher resolution which allows the viewers to zoom in for detailed features.  Sometimes, population centers were covered with orthophotography with one meter or less resolution produced by aircraft.  Unfortunately, Google has covered most of the eastern plains of Bago (Pegu) Division with low resolution imageries that most of the urban centers cannot be viewed in details.  Urban centers in the western slope and plains of Pegu Yoma (Ranges) have been mostly covered with high resolution imageries.  (See Figure - 3)

Figure  3.  Image Resolutions of Towns in Bago Division

Spatial growth of six urban centers in Pegu Division 
Selection of urban centers in Bago Division for the demonstration of spatial growth in 2000s was based on two factors: (a) availability of urban map in 1970s, and (b) availability of satellite imageries with high resolution posted by GE.  (See Table – 3)

Out of the 17 urban centers on the eastern plains of Bago Division, 1970s maps for 13 centers are available but only 4 of which can be zoomed in for detailed features.  A total of 15 urban centers are located on the western plains.  Out of which, 12 of them are available in 1970s maps, but only 8 of them are located on the high resolution imageries allowing for zooming to view the features in details.  Among the zoom-able 12 urban locations, six of them, namely Oktwin, Padaung, Thanatpin, Thayarwady, Shwedaung and Letpadan have been selected for sample studies.  (See Figure-4 below)

Figure 4.  Selected 1970s Land Use Maps for Six Urban Centers in Bago Division

Oaktwin is located on the east plains of Bago Yoma, and Padaung is located on the west plains.  Their populations, 7,176 and 8,418 respectively are fairly close in size.  Similarly, Thanatpin and Thayarwady are located on east and west sides of Bado Yoma and their populations (11,707 and 12,364 respectively) are of fairly comparable sizes.  Letpadan (popn. 23,241) and  Shwedaung (popn. 14,182) are located on the opposite ends of the western plains of Bago Division. 

Digital Mapping of urban growths of 1970s vs. 2000’s on Google Earth

The copies of 1970s land use maps collected by the author include the urban (city/town) boundary limit, street layouts, and a set of spatial locations of land uses which are comprised of residential areas, public lands such as recreational parks, monasteries and  pagodas, industrial lands, commercial areas, transportation, vacant lands and agricultural lands.  The digitizing of urban spatial growth was processed in four steps.  (A) Digitizing city limit boundary of 1970s:  Sometimes, the city limit boundary lines can be traced on the imageries when the boundary was demarcated along natural courses such as rivers, creeks or streams, and man made features such as streets or paddy plots. But when there’s no significant mark on the surface, the best judgment in digitizing the boundary line was made to match the alignments of lines on the hardcopy map.  (B) Digitizing 1970s urban settlement growth:  Polygons were created by tracing the outer edge of the land uses, and formed the 1970s settlement areas.  Generally, the growth areas had been built by settlement within the city limit boundaries.  (C) Digitizing growth areas filling land within the city limit: The layout of the settlement areas on the satellite imageries allows us to create polygons covering settlement areas between the edges of 1970s growth and the city limit boundaries.  (D) Digitizing areas of urban sprawls:  The layout of settlement areas on the imageries also shows the spatial growth with urban areas outside the 1970s city limits.  The sprawl areas are adjacent to the settlement areas of 1970s spreading along the major roads and/or expansion of growing settlement quarters.  These four stages of digitizing on the GE map of the urban centers have revealed the spatial growth of settlement during a period of 1970s and 2000s in three phases: growth in the 1970s, growth within 1970s city limit, and urban sprawls. 


In illustration to the digitizing of the urban growth in Oaktwin (See Figure 5), tracing of the administrative boundary line (red) was the first step taken.   The area of polygon needs to be scrutinized with the official area acreage within the administrative boundaries of the town notified in the annual land use data summary by Districts of Bago Division.  It was a bit easier for Oaktwin because the line runs along the creeks and existing street layouts.  For the second step, 1973 areas of settlement were drawn in one polygon (blue).  The edge of the settlement areas as shown on the hardcopy map was traced on the GE map.  For the third step, nine polygons (purple) were drawn on the edge of the areas of settlement outside of 1973 polygon, and within the administrative boundary of Oaktwin. These (purple) polygons show the urban growth after 1973.  The final step was the drawing of (three yellow) polygons adjacent to the areas of settlement adjacent to the (purple) polygons outside of the administrative boundaries.

Figure 5.  Settlement Growth at Oaktwin, Bago Division, Myanmar

In 1973, Oaktwin was a small town with a population of 7,176.  According to the Annual Season and Crops Report of Pegu, Toungoo, Tharawaddy and Prome Districts (1975-76), the areal extent of Oaktwin was 854 acres.  By residential area, population density was 92 per acre; but by the total area of non-agricultural within the city limit, the density was 41 per acre; and density for the entire town area (including the agricultural land inside) went down to 8.4 per acre.  During that time, there were 1,521 families living in 1,524 buildings with 1,668 rooms in Oaktwin.  In other words, the average people living in a building was 4.3, and size of family in a room was 0.91.

Oaktwin has been located in a strategic location due to major transportation routes intersecting through the town.  It has been a railway town running through by Yangon-Mandalay railroad and highway.  On the east, a road has been running from Oaktwin to Ohnbin Village which is located on the Sittaung River bank.  On the west, a road has been connected to Yetho Village which was built on the slope of Bago Yoma.  However, the settlement growth in Oaktwin had been slow because of its location being so close to a regional capital city, Taungoo.  In terms of population migration, the rural population was attracted to a lager city than a small town.  Oaktwin has been considered to be located as a shadow town dwarfed by Taungoo.  Recently, a major highway crossing over the ranges of Bago Yoma running from Oaktwin on the eastern plains to Paukkhaung (and Pyay) on the western slope, has been built.  This is the first time in the history of Myanmar having a road communication across the ranges of BagoYoma.  (See Figure 8)

The satellite imagery was taken on April 21, 2008, by Digital Globe.  Using the Google Earth’s area calculator tool, it was found out that areal acreage of 1970s settlement area (blue) on the image as 312 acres out of the total official town area of Oaktwin (854 acres).  That area has been grown within the administrative boundary (purple) for another 239 acres.  Outside the administrative town limit, a total of 52 acres of settlement areas have been sprawl (yellow) along the roads.  Actually, only the 63% of the administrative town area in 2008 has been built.  The growth tends to expand towards the west side of the existing town where the higher grounds on the slope of the BagoYoma located.

Figure 6.  Major Highways Running Through Bago Division


In 1973, Padaung was also still a small town with a population of 8,418.  Areal extent of Padaung was 251 acres out of which population density of residential area was 43 per acre; total area of non-agricultural within the city limit was 25 per acre; and density for the entire town area (including the agricultural land inside) was down to 24 per acre.

Figure 7.  Settlement Growth of Padaung, Bago Division, Myanmar

The satellite imagery covering Padaung (See Figure 7) was taken by Digital Globe on February 18, 2008.  Using the Google Earth’s area calculator tool, it was found that areal acreage of 1970s settlement area (blue) on the image as 177 acres out of the total official town area of Padaung (251 acres). That area has been grown within the administrative boundary (purple) for another 48 acres.  Outside the administrative town limit, a total of 221 acres of settlement areas (yellow) have been sprawl along the roads as well as built up towards inland.  Actually, 90% of the existed administrative town area in 2008 has been built.  The growth tends to increase towards the west side of the existing town away from the flood plains of Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River.  Spatially, the town has grown almost twice (1.8%) larger than the size of 1970s.

Padaung, literally grown from a small village, is located on the west bank of Ayeyarwady River across from Pyay on the east, however, it has grown fast to become a small town due to its strategic location.  Padaung has become an entre-port town having a single highway connecting Rakhine (Arakan) State across Rakhine Yoma (Ranges).  Now, its location has become more important than ever because of the completion of a sole, major highway connection Oaktwin which is sitting on the eastern side of Bago Yoma, and having access to Sittaung River delta.  This highway from Oaktwin connects to Pyay which is sitting on the western side of Bago Yoma.  The faster growth of Padaung is more promising since the Irrawaddy River which separated between Oaktwin-Pyay highway and Padaung-Taungoak (Arakan) higway has been connected via a bridge, Nawaday Bridge.  


Figure 8.  Settlement Growth at Thantpin, Bago Division, Myanmar

The building of a railroad from Bago, the Capital City of the Division, and the completion of a major transportation canal connecting Bago River and the Sittaung River across prosperous paddy fields of Bago-Sittaung delta region, quickly filled up settlement within the administrative boundary of Thanatpin (See Figure 8).  In 1973, population of the town was 11,707 of which 37% comprised of working people.  More than a quarter of its workers (26%) were farmers.  A significant workforce (27%) was involved in wholesale and transportation sectors. 

The satellite imagery covering Thanatpin was taken by Digital Globe on April 21, 2008.  According to the 1973 Burma Census, the official area of Thanatpin was 404 acres.  Settlement (blue) within the town limit in 1973 was 371 acres that is 80% of the total area.  On 2008 imagery, additional 39 acres (purple) of land were filled in to 97% of the total town area.  Obviously, it triggered the new settlement areas sprawling along the major transportation routes (roads, railroad and canal) during 1973 through 2008.  The growth of Thanatpin in the sprawling areas (yellow) was 193 acres, more than half the size of 1973 town area.  The population density in Thanatpin was 29 per acre for the entire town limit; but it was twice higher by 56 per residential acre.  In 1973, there were 2,454 families and 2,116 buildings in Thanatpin.

Figure 9.  Settlement Growth at Thayarwady, Bago Division, Myanmar

Population of Thayarwady (See Figure 9) was a fairly large size of 12,364 in 1973.  Located on the western plains of Bago Yoma, it was established as a town since 1901 Burma Census.  It also has been established as a railway town and later became a District administrative center.  In 1973, the administrative area of Tharyawady as a town was 2,145 acres.  Population density by the entire town area was only 5.8 per acre.  The areal acreage of residential area was 314.  Population density by residential area was 48.3 per acre.  Agricultural (paddy) land comprised of 1,625 acres that was 76% of the town area of Thayarwady in 1973.

The satellite imagery which covered Thayarwady was taken by Ditgital Globe on April 30, 2005.  According to the 1973 map, an estimate of settlement areas within land uses (blue) on the imagery was 625 acres.  During 1973 through 2005, the settlement within the town boundary grew 183 acres (purple), however growth didn’t occur in the vast paddy lands.  The growth (yellow 317 acres) sprawled along the railroad, outside the town proper of Thayarwady connecting with the twin town of Thonze in the south.

 (Shwedaung vs. Letpadan)

In 1973, Shwedaung is located on the northern portion of the western plains of Bago Yoma, south of the major city of Pyay at the northern border of Bago Division.  Letpadan is located on the southern portion of the western plains north of Thonze town at the southern border of the Bago Division.  As a river port town, Shwedaung  (See Figure 10)

was established since 1872 (popn. 12,654) while Letpadan was established in 1881 as a small town with 775 people.  As the Yangon-Pyay railroad was built, towns such as Letpadan along the railroad became railroad towns.  Letpadan‘s population grew faster as the railroad business became busier and busier.  For example, population was 9,901 in 1931, grew up to 12,160 in 1941, 15,869 in 1951, and  23,241 in 1973.  On the contrary, Shwedaung declined its population from 12,424 in 1891, then to 9,021 in1911, and further to 8,408. It had recovered in 1973 to 14,183. The railroad towns caused an exodus of population in river-port towns such as Shwedaung. 

As of urban growth in 1973, Shwedaung with a population of 14,183 had an areal extent of 1,360 acres while Letpadan (See Figure 11) had a population of 23,241 with an area of 2,294 acres.  In other words, both the population and spatial extent were double in Letpadan than Shwedaung.  Although both places had similar population density (10 per acre), by residential area population density for Shwedaung had 82 per acre while Letpadan had 134.

The satellite imagery covering Shwedaung was taken on February 18, 2008, and Letpadan was taken April 30, 2005, both by Digital Globe.    

In the land use map of 1973, both in Shwedaung and Letpadan, the settlement areas were 747 and 795 acres (blue) within the town boundaries, however, the spatial extent of Letpadan was twice larger than Shwedaung’s official town area.   Shwedaung was 55% (747 acres – blue) filled compared to Letpadan 35% (795 acres).   During1973 and 2005, both towns had ‘filled-up’ the spaces within the town limits.  In Shwedaung, additional 368 acres (purple) filled-in up to (82%) of the town limit.  Letpadan gained 284 acres by in-filling which was 47% of area within the town limit.  Settlement in Shwedaung has also significantly sprawled (166 acres) along all major artery roads while sprawling in Letpadan also showed 62 acres along the dual railway and road, but only on the south side of the town toward it’s twin-city, Thonze.
Google Earth (GE) technology has allowed us to reveal the spatial patterns of urban growth within a period of 30 years (from 1970’s through 2000’s), at six selected urban centers in Bago Division of Myanmar.  It would be interesting to see the spatial growth in three major cities of Bago Division (Bago, Pyay and Taungoo) in Bago Division.  As a preliminary study, this paper has established a method of analyzing spatial patterns and growth of urban centers using GE technology.

In summary, smaller towns such as Oaktwin and Padaung, and older towns such as Thanatpin and Shwedaung have been growing fast.  It appears to be that the authorities anticipated the urban centers with mid-range populations to grow faster and bigger, the official administrative boundaries were established with larger areas.  During the course of time, the growth expanded mostly along transportation routes sprawling outward the town limits instead of filling in the spaces within the town limit.  Obviously, more analysis should be conducted on more urban centers to make such a conclusion.  As a grant or funding could be available, a study of spatial urban growth on at least 125 towns and cities of Myanmar would be possible using this geo-technology approach.
I have owed my special thanks to U Maung Maung Aye, Professor Emeritus, Department of Geography, University of Yangon and Adjunct Rector (Ret.), Yangon University of Distance Education, Myanmar for his review of this paper during his visit to the United States.  I’ve also thanked Professor Kyawsein Yamahata, Ph.D., of Aichi Gakuin University, Japan, and Shovan K. Saha, Ph.D., of New Delhi School of Planning & Architecture, India for their encouragement and advice in preparing this paper.

Special Dedication
This paper is dedicated to the late Prof. Dr. Daw Thin Kyi of Rangoon Arts and Science University, Rangoon, Burma, who supervised my Masters Thesis on Urbanization in Pegu Division; and Dr. Paul Simkins, retired Professor of Geography at Penn State University, USA, who supervised the second specialization, Third World Urbanization, on my doctorate program at Penn State University, USA.

References & Notes

#  It is important to note that the name of the country, “Myanmar” has still been politically under controversial in many counts.  Due to the illegitimacy of the ruling military junta, renaming or Bamarization of  “Burma” to the direct pronunciation in English as ”Myanmar” has not been recognized by various non-Bamar ethnic groups as well as western nations such as United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the United States while  the United Nations, Japan, China, Germany, France and Russia endorsed the names announced by the Myanmar military junta.  This paper has cited the name of the country as “Myanmar” and the names of places such as towns, cities, states, divisions, rivers and mountains with the annotation of former names in parenthesis such as Myanmar (Burma), Bago (Pegu), and Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy).   

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* Dr. U Win earned a Ph.D. in Geography at Pennsylvania State University, the United State in 1989 specializing in Water Resources Management and the Third World Urbanization.  Presently, he is with San Diego State University - Vizualization Center as a Adjunct Faculty.

Posted on September 25, 2011 by winnerscircle

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A gallery of unpublished (over 100) land use maps of Burma during 1960s through 1970s

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