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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Klang Valley’s impending transformation

It is undeniable that Klang Valley's built environment is on the threshold of some major changes with ongoing plans to improve the infrastructure network, such as the My Rapid Transit (MRT) project and the planned redevelopment of some of the Government's land.

The days of the present property landscape may be numbered as old and dilapidated buildings may be demolished to make way for other new projects and buildings. In this regard, it is imperative to ensure that historical buildings should be spared and property owners of buildings that need to make way for this development process, will be duly consulted and compensated.

While the pursuit of new development projects is well and good in the name of growth and development, we must ensure that at the end of the day the projects will offer more greater good to the larger populace.

The gauge on how successful the project will turn out should not be just based on its quantum of material or monetary benefit, but what is equally important is that it must offer a greater net benefit after weighing both the economic and monetary, as well as non-monetary components.

Ultimately the success of a development project should be measured by the accrued benefits to the people and how it will help towards adding value to their overall well-being.

As such, when assessing the viability of projects, instead of just considering the monetary costs and benefits, it is equally important to give due consideration to the non-monetary and social benefits and costs.

Project planners should ensure that the total accrued benefits will at least equal or outweigh the total cost. In this regard, it is important to bring to bear all the components of the costs and benefits in their assessment.

One good example is the need for a workable national public housing programme. If the project's viability is just measured based on the total monetary benefits against the costs, it won't be surprising to see that the cost-to-benefit study will turn up negative to show that the cost outweighs the benefit.

Given that these housing units have to be priced affordably at a certain price threshold, it may fail on the benefits side of the equation if it is just based on the monetary benefits. But adding up all the social benefits of a well run public housing programme will show that it is a highly desirable and beneficial project to the public.

This is because as far as the benefits are concerned, it is not just about the total income or profit to the developer, but it is also about how a wholesome, safe and well built environment will benefit and help the average Malaysians and their families to thrive and make good in life.

If these public housing projects are well designed with reasonably sized built-up to fit at least three rooms, have space for community and sports activities, and are safe and well managed, the benefits will come in manifold. These include thriving, happy and closer knit families; more responsible adults and parents; less divorce cases; better behaved and high performing children; and less cases of truancy, dropouts and other social menaces.

I always believe that the foundation for a thriving and healthy society starts with the family unit. As long as we continue to keep our family unit functional and thriving, many of the ills facing our society today will be nipped in the bud.

Given the wide ranging benefits of having a well planned social housing programme, it should be accorded top priority and more resources should be allocated to ensure its success. Likewise, there are also many non-monetary benefits from a well integrated and efficient public transport system that warrant it being placed on the priority list as well. These include less hassle and stressful city living; higher productivity if the people can move around with ease which means spending less time on the road; and hopefully they can also save up money for rainy days (by not having to own and maintain a car).

To ensure its success, the whole array of public transport network should be integrated and be complementary to each other, instead of competing with each other for business. It can be likened to the chicken or egg situation. Once the infrastructure is in place and running efficiently, I believe many Klang Valley folks will voluntarily resort to using public transport.

Come to think of it, the construction of the new MRT stations and tunnelling works will no doubt cause massive traffic jams and congestion when the time comes.

This is not something Klang Valley folks are looking forward to, and it is imperative that advance arrangements are made to redirect traffic flow and ensure the construction work will not be disruptive to road users. As it is, many roads in the capital city are already heavily choked by the heavy vehicle traffic especially during rush hours. The current wet spell only serves to worsen the situation.

Deputy news editor Angie Ng looks forward to a holistic, wholesome and sustainable living environment that will be functional and relevant for many years to come.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

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