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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Safety a priority for development projects

KLANG Valley folks are both awed and apprehensive by the many development projects that are either in the drawing board or already under way in their midst that are bound to change their living, recreation and working landscapes.

One of the most massive projects under way is of course the My Rapid Transit (MRT) public transport system. The others include the development of the 3,300 acres of the Rubber Research Institute land in Sungei Buloh, the 494-acre former military airport in Sungei Besi, Kuala Lumpur Financial District and redevelopment of Pudu Jail.

Many of the projects are expected to take place concurrently, and when the huge boulders, skylifts and tractors roll in, there is bound to be various issues cropping up especially pertaining to public safety and worsening traffic jams, among others.

Public safety should be of paramount importance. High standards of safe industry practices and standards at the construction sites should be spelt out clearly and strictly adhered to by all the contractors. Heavy penalties must be meted out to those who fail to practice these safety standards. The safety standards should cover proper safety procedures and high standards in safety, health and environment protection in all the project sites.

The aim is to prevent injury, minimise environmental impact, and ensure minimum inconvenience to the public.

The ongoing construction work to upgrade the public transport system in the Klang Valley is bound to cause more severe road congestion and other inconveniences when work progresses. As it is, the relentless road congestion has been one of the main reasons marring the ease of travel in our cities.

Proper traffic dispersal system has to be in place and well tested to ensure the traffic jams will not lead to grid locks on the roads which frequently happen these days on roads where there is construction going on (especially when it rains).

I believe many of us must have knots in our stomachs when it comes to crossing roads during rush hours. It can be quite a herculean task when there is no pedestrian crossing or overhead bridge in sight.

With the high traffic these days, it is necessary to make pedestrian bridge a mandatory feature on our roads and highways to ensure safety of the pedestrians. This requirement should be spelt out in the contract to the appointed contractors who undertake the construction work.

The sheer size of the areas earmarked for development especially the new massive townships, and the fact that very little information has been provided on the progress of the projects must have caused apprehension among the people.

Even industry players who are keen to bid for the projects have very scant information about how things are going and are very much in the dark on how they can participate. To ensure the best and viable ideas are given due consideration, inviting bids via open tenders by industry players will be the best and most appropriate method to adopt.

It is not just about coming out with the project plans but equally important is the need to keep the public and industry players posted on the progress, and how they will be impacted or benefit from the projects.

For greater transparency and accountability, details on the progress of these projects should be regularly posted and updated on the websites of the governing authorities that are overseeing them. The public will want to know how the project will blend with the existing environment, and what are the plans for traffic dispersal system. Environment impact assessment studies need to be conducted to determine the potential impact of those projects on the overall environment so that solutions can be built into the master plan.

On the positive side, Klang Valley folks must be looking forward to these projects further sprucing up the living environment for a higher quality of life and greater conveniences for them.

If planned holistically and executed well, the large parcels of land have the potential for better integration of public infrastructure and services. They will also remain relevant and sustainable for a longer term.

I believe this is indeed a golden opportunity to replan and redesign our cities to become global cities that provide higher living standards and more wholesome and quality environment.

The development plans should not be based on profit targets, but also for the social, environmental and sustainable causes.

Supply should be of a high quality and value, and development should be coordinated so as not to upset the supply and demand equilibrium.

It is important to be alert to the tendency to build up the land to the maximum; instead there should be a purposeful intention to set aside space for parks, green lungs and other public spaces for recreation and leisure. Making the city green with the allotment of open public spaces and green networks, complete with environmental protection zones and control measures, will preserve the green areas and parks from being roped in for development in future.

Town planners must have the foresight to plan the roads and other infrastructures for the growing population over the long term. And it boils down to having holistic master plans and best intentions for our cities.

Deputy news editor Angie Ng sees immense benefit from cleaning up our heavily polluted rivers as pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes can be built in along riverside stretches to promote walking and cycling culture among Klang Valley folks.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

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