This post was featured in the official blog of the Malaysian Economic Transformation Programme under the Performance and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU), Prime Minister's Department: (link)
A Chapter in the Malaysian Economic Transformation Program (ETP) Handbook
It came out in the newspaper today that our Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Malaysia offers the best package in the world in terms of standard of living and amenities (link). While ‘best in the world’ might be received with skeptical eyes by some, I think there is already a whole lot of negativism on other blogs and online portals that I think it wouldn't hurt to spread some positivity around. The Prime Minister further commented that once projects such as the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and River of Life has been completed, it would transform the face of Kuala Lumpur and will be among the quantum leaps that will enable Kuala Lumpur to match major cities of the world, such as London, New York and Tokyo.
It was a twist of fate that got me looking first hand at the final drafts and blueprints of future Kuala Lumpur, or ‘Greater Kuala Lumpur’ as our government calls it. My Special Study Module research team were actually looking for the most detailed map of Kuala Lumpur because we were doing some disease prevalence research which involves some heavy geography and map-reading. We initially went to the KL library (which was so fine-looking with all that glass windows) to search for the map, but as with anything else in research, one thing led to another, and somehow we ended up at the 11th floor of DBKL building (The Kuala Lumpur Town Hall), where the Master Planner Department lies. As we were discussing with one of the staff there about the Kuala Lumpur map we were looking for, my eyes couldn't stop wandering around the room. I failed to pay attention to the discussion for more than 10 minutes because the room was filled with posters and blueprints of the Greater Kuala Lumpur that efficaciously caught my attention. I couldn’t help but to excuse myself, get up, and look at these plans one by one. Some of the posters were the written objectives, mission and vision of Greater Kuala Lumpur (which can be summed up by the catchy phrase ’20-20 by 2020’: being the top 20 in city economic growth and top 20 most liveable cities in the world by the year 2020), some were the blueprints for the MRT project, and some were the step by step plan for The River of Life project.
All these plans were set out in detail by the Kuala Lumpur Town Hall. It is like a road map for the future. I first heard of the Greater Kuala Lumpur during the event where I met the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in UKM Bangi (link). Before the lunch with him, I had the opportunity to hear from Dato’ Idris Jala, the CEO of Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu), who was also there, about Malaysia’s National Key Economic Areas (NKEA). Pemandu is responsible for Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), and one of the key economic transformations is the formation of Greater Kuala Lumpur. It was a very enlightening session. According to him, the population of Kuala Lumpur is targeted to increase from the current 6 million to 10 million by the year 2020. To accommodate this growth in population, an expansion of the city centre must take place. Hence, Greater KL actually extends beyond the boundaries of Kuala Lumpur. It is defined as the area covered by 10 municipalities, each governed by local authorities: DB Kuala Lumpur (DBKL), Perbadanan Putrajaya, MB Shah Alam (MBSA), MB Petaling Jaya (MBPJ), MP Klang (MPK), MP Kajang, MP Subang Jaya (MPSJ), MP Selayang, MP Ampang Jaya (MPAJ) and MD Sepang:
Also, to accommodate the increase in population density, it makes perfect sense to provide a reliable transport to move the mass of people around, into, and out of the city. This is where the MRT project comes in. Looking at the plans reminded me of the London underground tube. I used the tube quite often every time I am in London, and I find it quite reliable (except recently where heavy maintenance works was going on in preparation for the 2012 London Olympics). It is impressive that they have such extensive networks, with a central line (the Circle Line) which goes around the city in a circle loop, so when there is an obstruction or breakdown in any of the other lines, the passengers can always take the circle line to bypass it (unless the Circle Line itself breaks down). Although they have thought of this system decades ago, I am glad that Malaysia is also going to extend its reaches of mass rapid transit to cover more areas and construct a central line too that goes in a loop around KL.
The talk by Dato’ Idris Jala, the CEO of Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu)
As for now, the proposal is to build an underground MRT line designated ‘MRT Line 2’ that will be looping around the city centre. Extending from this circle line are further extensions: the Red Line will go from Damansara in the northwest to Serdang in the southeast, the Green Line will be from Kepong in the northeast to Cheras in the southwest, and both lines will pass through the city of Kuala Lumpur and converge at Dataran Perdana (Kuala Lumpur International Financial District) near Jalan Tun Razak. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? I am sure that this will indeed stimulate the growth of the economy by providing easier transport for businesses, create jobs for more people, and developing areas throughout the lines traversed by the MRT, hence creating even more businesses and jobs.
Urban development and maintenance of the natural environment rarely goes hand in hand. Hence I am glad that while urbanization and modernization takes place, the government has not left the natural environment out of the way. Living in Gombak for over a half of my life, I am well acquainted with the dirty polluted waters of the Gombak River. I’ve always known that our rivers were under-utilized natural assets. Great civilizations has been built upon rivers, and here we have two prominent rivers running through the city centre and not much has been done to tap into its capabilities. When I was a child, I used to cycle across the Gombak River through a bridge in Kampung Changkat to buy some Playstation CDs in Taman Greenwood. Every time I passed across the bridge I would observe the murky waters scattered with floating rubbish and god knows what peculiar looking objects. I’ve always seen beautiful rivers in Discovery Channel but they were all far out of town. It has been embedded in my mind that rivers running through a city will always be dirty and polluted. However, my visit to Korea 2 years ago changed my perception. They had a river running through Seoul called the Cheonggyecheon River. The river was amazingly clean, even safe for human contact and there were pedestrian walkways all along the river. I thought how comforting it is to be able to take a walk along the river after a hard day of work in the city.
A snapshot of Cheonggyecheon River I took in Seoul. The river runs through the city and is so clean that the people spend time just sitting by watching the water. It's a small river as compared to the ones in KL, hence we might have a bigger potential if the River of Life project is a success
At that moment, I thought of Gombak and Klang River and I remembered thinking negatively that Malaysian rivers will never be that way. Hence, I am quite surprised the first time I hear about the River of Life project. I know it would be a daunting task to clean the rivers that has been polluted for years. However, I am positive, with the right management of the project, the rivers can be cleaned and beautified and transform Kuala Lumpur into an environmental friendly city. The rivers could also be a source of economic earnings through creating vibrant waterfronts like in Vancouver, Auckland, Geneva or Seoul. It could also be great for recreational purposes, so KL-ites would not have to go far to de-stress. The possibilities are infinite. Here is a video about the River of Life project that you should watch:
All these plans have got me excited and hopeful. However, my true hope is that the development of Malaysia is beyond the material. The civic mindedness of the people remains a greater challenge. If people can just throw things out of their car windows on clean streets like Jalan Tun Razak, what would stop them from throwing rubbish into clean rivers? I hope that our civic mindedness also grew with the developments and economy. However instead of being negative about the future of Malaysia, why not do something about it? Being overly pessimistic and skeptical doesn’t help. Everybody wants a better future for themselves and their children, but not many go past the whining and start making a change. As fellow citizen, I am going to be a part of this transformation going on in Malaysia, are you?