The city of Yangon is one of the most vulnerable cities worldwide to climate change, suffering from widespread flooding during the monsoon while experiencing severe water shortages in the dry season. Starting in 2019, through a joint initiative of local and international partners, the Yangon Htee City program (“htee” meaning “umbrella” in Burmese) has been promoting local communities to get actively involved in making their neighbourhoods more climate resilient. Focusing on small-scale, practical measures, such as rainwater harvesting, drainage improvements, awareness and education programs, water quality monitoring, mobile apps and household water filters, local residents feel more empowered to strengthen the resilience of their families and communities.
Facing the combined impact of Covid and a severe political crisis, the Yangon Htee City program had to find new, innovative ways of engaging with communities. One of these is the partnership with UN-Habitat and the Block by Block Foundation to use Minecraft as a tool for visualisation and collaboration. Under this innovative program, the Yangon Raincraft program was launched in July 2021, allowing local residents to learn from local and international experts about water and climate adaptation interventions, while giving them the chance to develop and visualise their own ideas and solutions for clean and safe water in their virtual neighbourhoods (modelled true-to-life in Minecraft!).
“In Minecraft, all of us could participate and contribute ideas for climate resilient practices in the urban development without needing an urban-related degree or architect background. We are equal working together.”
Htet (21), Yangon Raincraft participant
Yangon Raincraft Program
The Yangon Raincraft program was set-up as a 6-week program covering key topics such as the natural and urban water cycle, flooding, water scarcity and climate resilience. At the end of the program, the participants had to deliver their own original “Master Plan”, presenting their personal views on a climate resilient neighbourhood.
“As an architect, I used other rendering software, which takes a lot of time and needs more skill. In Minecraft, we can express our creativity and ideas easily and quickly, although I don’t have any previous experience with the game.”
May (26), Yangon Raincraft participant
Climate resilience starts with people!
During the program’s final week (Week 6), the participants worked in teams to create “master plans” for two prominent public spaces in the Thaketa township: one being a school yard that is regularly flooded in the monsoon and the other being a retention lake that is used by people to get water and to recreate.
The results were nothing short of amazing… Both teams blew away the local and international experts who attended the final presentation on Sunday 8 August. Not only did the teams present a well-developed range of measures and interventions to address flooding and water shortage, but they presented these as part of a holistic, integrated design that places high emphasis on people’s wellbeing, featuring elements such as outdoor meeting spaces, sports and recreation activities and attractive landscaping (including a “love lane” ).
“We were all really impressed with the plans. To see how these young people express their wishes and dreams for a climate resilient Yangon in which people live and work together peacefully, should give us hope for the future of this beautiful country!”
International Program Expert