Saturday, January 24, 2009

Klang River may get a facelift

I am pleased to read in the NST that the Selangor State Government plans to solve the Klang Valley area’s chronic congestion with a public-transport blueprint including boats and trains that may cost RM50 billion (US$14 billion).

The 10-year program involves turning the brown Klang River, flowing west from Kuala Lumpur through Selangor state, into a waterway clean enough to attract commuters.

Sungai Klang was the artery that provided the lifeblood for the region that we now know today as the Klang Valley, the most densely populated area in Malaysia.

It connected the tin-rich settlement of Kuala Lumpur to Klang and the muara that led to the exchange of goods.

So economically prominent did that muara become that, after detailed surveys, Frank Swettenham's Administration commissioned the opening of a viable port at the rivermouth. It's initial name was Port Swettenham. That romantic colonial name was replaced by the functional name, Pelabuhan Klang or Port Klang. Being a frequent visitor, I may have some more to say about Port Klang at some stage later on.

For now, I hope that economic and development planning takes the stage, front and centre. And, I truly hope that Mentri Besar Tan Sr Khalid Ibrahim will successfully navigate the narrow selat between State-Federal politics and the rational dictates of economics and development.

The much-maligned and abused Sungai Klang has received the same treatment as with almost all riverine matrices in Malaysia. After being an artery that helped to create the settlements and economy, the river is treated like a longkang for over 5 decades now.

Why is it that Malaysian development eschews river frontage? There are very few exceptions.

I completely share his sentiments as quoted: “Now I have to juggle the politics so that the federal government will feel it’s their idea, not mine,” Khalid said. “So long as I get a clean river and public transport, I don’t mind.”

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