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Saturday, November 19, 2011

A more balanced development helps

The Klang Valley has grown tremendously in many fronts, both organically from a natural increase in the local population, inter-state migration, and more robust economic and development activities.

There is also a higher influx of foreigners to our shores in the last one to two years.

Looking at the rapid pace of change and development around us, I believe the gravitational centre of the Klang Valley needs to be shifted from the present mostly developed and rather congested cities, especially Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, to more well spaced out and uncrowded areas.

With quite a number of high impact and transformational projects in the pipeline for implementation, the availability of land will be able to accommodate the big infrastructure and development projects without having to encroach into our present living landscape.

One of the ways this can be done is by ensuring that high impact development projects that have the potential to spawn new economic activities and attract people to set up homes and businesses should be spread out to corridors which are still relatively untapped and inhibited.

As we know the ongoing development of new infrastructure and property projects is mainly concentrated in the central and southern corridors that include Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Puchong, Cyberjaya, Putrajaya, right down to Nilai in Negri Sembilan. The western corridor towards the Port Klang area is also seeing greater growth and development.

Meanwhile the northern and eastern corridors are still relatively untapped and efforts should be expended to bring more “enabling” projects to those parts of the Klang Valley.

Unlike some countries where land is a rare commodity, Malaysia is blessed with vast tracts of land that are suitable for development, and the question that has been asked many times is this: Why is there land shortage as well as inflated land cost and property prices in the country then?

Rightly speaking, there should not be any land or property shortage if more land is opened up for development and developers continue to launch township products that include landed properties that are in short supply.

Many of us must have noticed that the number of new greenfield township projects has quite suddenly grounded to a halt in the past three years, as most developers have shifted their focus to building small niche projects instead.

In a way, this has tremendously reduced the supply of property, especially landed housing units, over the past two years.

One of the plausible ways to address the current land and property shortage is to “plant the seeds of development” by spreading out some of the high impact government projects in the undeveloped corridors as catalyst of change and development.

Infrastructure projects such as new highways, and good public transport system such as the mass rapid transit or bullet train project, are some of the initiatives that can spawn wider growth corridors.

Besides the natural “organic” pace of development, efforts to expedite the development process of the cities in the Klang Valley include high impact infrastructure projects, such as the My Rapid Transit (MRT) project.

The MRT is one of the biggest infrastructure projects that has been planned for the country to act as the backbone of the Klang Valley's public transport system.

To ensure that it serves its purpose well into decades to come, it is imperative for the project planners to plan the project not just to cater to the needs of the present population but more importantly, the needs of the growing Klang Valley populace in many years to come.

The question is whether it should just concentrate on the well populated and busy areas or that is should also ply the other sparsely populated areas.

Instead of building most of the rail tracks and stations in the “already occupied” and developed parts of the city, I believe the MRT should also traverse through the less occupied corridors of the Klang Valley to spread development there.

That way it will have more greenfield land and flexibility to master plan for a more holistic and integrated MRT network, with the necessary ancillary supporting structures such as the terminals and car parks, to promote a higher use of the public transport system.

Although in terms of capacity, it may be under utilise initially, its usage is bound to pick up steam once more economic activities start to take shape and the population starts to grow.

When demand increases, new land will bound to be opened and developers will find it feasible to undertake big township projects again. With higher supply, prices will also be back to its lower equilibrium.

Deputy news editor Angie Ng has an advice for those who have misgivings of not having more: Count our blessings and reach out to help the less fortunate.

By The Star

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