By Roznah Abdul Jabbar
Apart from being counted as a world-class city, what Kuala Lumpur has in common with New York, London and Paris are all of these cities have prominent rivers flowing through them. This is not surprising as historically, the inception of most bustling urban settlements happened near rivers.
Recognising its significance, KLites were delighted when the River of Life (ROL) project was announced about five years ago. They have been dreaming of a clean and beautiful river in contrast to the existing rubbish-filled “teh tarik” coloured river which has been more of an eyesore.
However, the snail-speed progress of the project is beginning to turn the sense of anticipation into disenchantment.
General manager of Malaysian Institute of Planners (MIP) Training Centre Sdn Bhd, Khairiah Talha said that the delay could be due to legislation and authoritative problems.
She said that there are a lot of encumbrances faced by the project when it comes to effective implementation, such as overdevelopment and land ownership matters.
Khairiah said that many of the earmarked areas are used for factories and industrial purposes and there are also plots which belong to private companies.
“There are parcels that we have lost to private hands. So the process of land acquisition itself has become one of the main reasons for the delay. The legislative measures are creating problems,” she said.
President of MIP, Md Nazri Mohd Noordin, said neighbouring countries have also taken time to implement such projects and it will take time for the ROL project to be conceptualised.
He said that Singapore took about 20 years to rehabilitate its river.
“Even one river is troublesome, [and] we have two rivers involved in the project. Slowly, but surely, the ROL project will be implemented fully,” he said.
He added that there are 13 departments and agencies involved and MIP has now discovered that managing all these authorities is difficult.
However, Deputy Minister of Federal Territories Ministry, Datuk Loga Bala, said that the project is on schedule and is expected to be completed as planned, which is in 2017.
The project, which was introduced in 2011 under the National Key Results Area and 10th Malaysia Plan, is aimed specifically at cleaning and beautifying the waterway as well as to develop the land surrounding it, according to Deputy Director of Urban Wellness & Local Agenda 21 Unit, Physical Planning Department, KL City Hall (DBKL), Nik Mastura Diyana.
The ROL project, which is an Entry Point Project (EPP) identified in the Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley National Key Economic Area (NKEA) under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), is divided into three components – river cleaning, river master planning and beautification and land development.
River cleaning targets at improving the 110km stretch along the Klang River basin from the current Class III-V to Class IIB by 2020, will be carried out by the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (JPS) while River Development will focus on spurring economic investments into the areas surrounding the river corridor, which will be carried out by the respective developers.
Mastura said that the master planning and beautification works, which DBKL is responsible for, in collaboration with 13 departments and agencies, will be carried out along a 10.7km stretch of the Klang and Gombak river corridor.
DBKL organised an International Master Planning Competition launched on Apr 12, 2011 to identify the best vision for the beautification works along the stretch. AECOM from USA, which was the winner of the competition, has been appointed as the consultant to produce the ROL Master Plan and Detailed Plan for Precinct 7, the first phase of the component which covers Jalan Tun Perak to Jalan Kinabalu.
In 2014, Mastura was quoted as saying, “With the ROL project, urbanites can anticipate a clean and clear river with views to look forward to in three years’ time.”
The ROL beautification areas encompass 11 precincts, covering Titiwangsa to Brickfields. The master plan will cover plots along the Klang River and Gombak River, including adjacent developments throughout the length of both rivers.
“The precincts will catalyse the development of other areas within the city river front. The overall objective for this project is to realise the aspiration of turning the Klang and Gombak River into a vibrant and liveable waterfront with high economic value. A technically, economically and socially sustainable and executable master plan needs to be formulated,” she said then.
At that time, Mastura said that work on Phase 1 began in 2013 and the progress at the areas behind Masjid Jamek and adjacent to Bangkok Bank is now visible.
She said that ROL is envisioned to be an integral part of lives for people who work and live in KL. It will spur real estate development along the river and a new river-based public transportation system will be integrated as a support system for public transport in the city.
“The river beautification component is expected to be fully completed in 2017,” she added then.