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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Long-term vision necessary in planning future cities

KLANG Valley folks are known for their ability to cope with heavily congested roads but even they are growing edgy these days as many public facilities are increasingly becoming inadequate and overstretched.

From the widely-publicised overcrowded buses, trains and other modes of public transport, parks, roads, public housing and recreational facilities are also over-stretched and need to be upgraded and expanded.

It is important to ensure there are adequate space provided for more public facilities to promote a higher quality of life for the people.

The level of livability of our towns and cities is to a large extent dependent on the overall environment and the adequacy and quality of public facilities provided for the people.

In planning for the Greater Kuala Lumpur (GKL) conurbation, it is imperative for our planners to benchmark against other global cities around the world and learn from them why these cities have become such great metropolis.

As the GKL covers quite a massive geographical area, together with the government land to be opened up for redevelopment, much can be done to improve things for Klang Valley folks.

The master planning for GKL should strive for a sustainable global city that takes into account the fast expanding population.

Development plans for housing, commercial facilities, schools, universities, hospitals and other infrastructure facilities should be able to cope with the expanding needs over at least the next 20 to 30 years.

Meanwhile, there should not be too much emphasis on maximising land use and plot ratio in property projects as this will lead to over high density developments and over crowding. Instead there should be a healthy balance between the built and unbuilt environment, and it is important to allocate land for public parks and other wholesome recreational facilities.

Although it is heartening to note that planning for a more efficient and better integrated public transport infrastructure for the GKL is underway, these facilities should be synchronised and be integrated with plans for other public facilities including new property developments.

The MRT factor

We can learn from Singapore how its mass rapid transit system (MRT) is planned holistically and meticulously to integrate with all the public housing apartments provided by the Housing Development Board (HDB).

Every MRT station in the city state is within walking distance to the nearby HDB housing precincts and shopping complexes. Commuters can safely walk along paved pedestrian walkways to the stations.

As the planning for the GKL's MRT infrastructure is still in the early days, the master planners should pay utmost importance to ensure the system can become a beacon for the greening of our cities. With proper planning, less people will need to drive around and there will be less road congestion and pollution.

Many Malaysians believe that one of the main factors contributing to the severe overstretched public facilities can be traced to the influx of too many foreign unskilled people, especially those who are here illegally.

Proper enforcement is necessary to ensure all the foreign workers in the country are here legally and are duly employed and properly supervised to prevent them from getting involved in undesirable activities.

Besides stretching our public resources to the limit, there are also social problems that are associated with the big number of foreigners, especially illegal immigrants, in our midst. These include the increasing number of illegal foreign colonies or settlements, and other accompanying problems like outbreaks of diseases.

It may be unfair to link crime to the immigrant population, but the fact is many people are uneasy when such settlements spring up near our housing estates.

Often, for peace of mind, people have no choice but to resort to surveillance measures such as fencing up their housing estates and employing 24-hour security guards.

The rising number of housing estates that are been fenced up and guarded this way, shows that this is a significant problem and more concrete actions need to be undertaken to return peace and security to our housing estates.

Deputy news editor Angie Ng believes that in the pursuit of growth and development, the spirit and values of the individual should not be compromised.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

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