Tag Archives: my say

Do We Need Water-Related Activities At The Riverfront

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By Jerry Francis

When the then Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Tajol Rosli Ghazali officiated what was to be a multi-million-ringgit Ipoh city riverfront beautification project with fanfare and wide publicity on January 27, 2004, there was joy amongst the residents of the city.

It was generally felt that at last, the embankments of Sungai Kinta, which bisects the city into New Town and Old Town sectors, would be a new focal point.

Now seven years later, the project has not materialised. It has become yet another much talked about project in Perak that has fallen off the track.

Under the proposal, Sungai Kinta was set to become a tourist spot with the introduction of water-related activities by the state government. The state chairman for tourism, Dato’ Hamidah Othman, had earlier tried to revive the project, but now no-one seems to talk about it.

She said that for a start, they might offer kayaking along the river for tourists and city folk. According to her, a river cruise would also be offered by a private group of companies, which was undertaking a RM200m development project along the 1.2km stretch of the river.

“The cruise will start from Taman D.R. Seenivasagam to the Kinta Riverfront,” she said, adding that more activities would be introduced from time to time.

She said efforts to make Sungai Kinta “an engine of growth” for tourism activities was in line with the state’s ambition in making the industry the second biggest income earner for Perak.

The question is, can such water-related activities be developed as a tourist attraction on the narrow and shallow Sungai Kinta? I am amazed by such a suggestion. No wonder our plans often fail because we do not give much thought to such proposals before implementing them.

Why do we need to develop water-related activities like other cities where their rivers are deeper and wider? Sungai Kinta is hardly 30 metres wide and 2 metres deep, and as such not feasible for any water-related activities. Furthermore, it is also badly polluted.

Such activities, particularly a river cruise, are doomed to failure. Just take a look at the nearby artificial lake in Taman D.R. Seenivasagam and what has happened to its water-related activities.

We must be crazy to expect that tourists would be interested in our river cruise. What is there to see, except the polluted water and the riverbanks that are hardly attractive? Unlike Malacca where the river cruises allow visitors to see the heritage buildings, a traditional kampong and some big monitor lizards lazing in the sun along the riverbanks.

What we really need is to beautify the stretch of Sungai Kinta’s embankments, not water-related activities as they would be a waste of public funds.

Rivers have always been the focal point of cities all over the world. They not only reflect how well responsible authorities can manage pollution, but also how well they can co-opt rivers into their beautification plans.

Famous cities all over the world, which were founded along rivers, have been beautifying their river embankments. Look at London, Paris, Amsterdam and even Singapore where their riverfronts have become well-known landmarks.

The cities are beautiful because of the rivers, where the bridges and riverbanks are spruced up to blend with the development. However, Ipoh is just like many others in the country which have yet to make use of their rivers for beautification purposes.

Sungai Kinta continues to be polluted as those living upstream are throwing wastes into the river daily. Efforts by the Drainage and Irrigation Department to save the river from pollution through such campaigns as “Love Our River” have not been successful.

If the state government is serious about developing the riverfront, it should be concentrating on the embankments. Forget about the water-related activities, as they will be a strain on funds.

Morubina Group of Companies had initially looked at it in the right perspective. It had developed a stretch of the embankment as food outlets, constructed small-scale replicas of famous bridges across the river and established a tin mining gallery to reflect the past glory of the “City That Tin Built”.

The riverfront can become the rendezvous for visitors to refresh themselves and visit the tin mining gallery before setting out to the various mining and cultural heritage sites in the state. While the city folks can walk or have a “teh tarik” and some food at one of the outlets. However, to make the project a reality, there is a need to put a more determined effort to developing the riverbanks.

Ipoh Needs A “Focus Plan”

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By Jerry Francis 

It is very obvious that preserving the buildings in the old city centre is one of the most sensitive issues in Ipoh today. Each time Ipoh Echo highlights it, there are vociferous comments from local residents as well as from Malaysians living abroad. The general consensus among them is to preserve the old buildings. They share the view that simply demanding for the old buildings in the city to be preserved as heritage will not be enough; a plan must be put in place to induce their owners to preserve the buildings.

Expecting building owners to spend large sums of money to repair without any hope of recouping their expenditures will not work. Not only does the old city centre need sprucing up, but it should be rejuvenated to promote economic activities by providing various incentives to the building owners.

Lack of such incentives have caused some owners to hang on to their dilapidated buildings in the hope that there would be an opportune time to repair them. This has resulted in the buildings becoming “eyesores” and some collapsing like those in Panglima Lane – along the city’s heritage trail, last week.

In view of the enthusiasm on preservation shown by the readers, I am reproducing some excerpts from their comments and suggestions, which were posted on our website.

According to a regular reader Steven Lee, Ipoh City Council needs to have a “focus plan” on how to develop the city and not to continue growing haphazardly. He said new developments in Ipoh don’t create new businesses but cannibalize from other parts of the city. “This creates a scenario where new developments are busy but old parts of Ipoh are slowly dying off. Yet MBI (city council) has not come up with plans to rejuvenate these parts of the city,” said Lee.

Lee added that asking building owners to spend a lot of money to repair/renovate their buildings with the uncertainty of recouping their costs will not work. The city council must provide more concrete plans on what is needed to be done in the area, as well as providing incentives such as grants, and waiver of assessment fees and quit rent.

Another reader Papan Jones thanked Ipoh Echo for igniting the fuse to such a provocative subject. “The comments thus far support the concerns for regaining the glories of Ipoh,” he said. According to him, there is no lack of love for the city, only the lack of political will and cohesive action to make Ipoh the unique city that tin built, a living testimony of the country’s wealth and modern development.

“Congratulations Ipoh Echo,” said Mohd. Hassan. “Your story appears to be a ‘wake-up’ call for the Ipoh City Council to take a serious look at the old city centre. It has drawn the personal attention of Datuk Bandar. However, instead of looking at it as feedback, Dato’ Roshidi claimed it as giving a negative perception of Ipoh City Council. Let us hope the special committee formed can come up with a master plan to deal with the ‘lingering problems’ in the old city centre.”

A former resident Ken Chan said: “I strongly feel that our beloved hometown still has its innate charm intact even though the general condition of the city has degenerated substantially over the years. Instead of indulging in finger-pointing and be conveniently carried away by the blame game, the political bigwigs in the city should take the initiative to establish a special commission to draw a master plan for Ipoh’s future growth and development into the next century.”

“It takes someone with leadership, foresight and a deep sense of commitment to start the ball rolling and the plan should be fine-tuned when there is a need to do so,” added Ken.

“Heritage is important. Tourists are important as they put money in the coffers. When all the old buildings are demolished and brand new monsters replace them, no one is going to visit Ipoh when it looks just like any other town. Buildings need to be maintained and not left to rot,” according to Ruth Iversen Rollitt, daughter of a well-known local architect.

Quoting Superyusrie, “Heritage preservation issues should be dealt with on a case by case basis. Assuming that each and every building in the city has heritage value and needs to be saved by the authorities and not by the owners themselves is terribly flawed and such an irresponsible attitude! If you value your old properties so much, why not stay back and take care of them yourselves instead of burdening others unnecessarily with the responsibilities, heritage or not!”

The above responses and many others from the readers are very heartening to me as it uplifted my enthusiasm to call for more efforts to induce economic development in the old city centre.

The old city centre must be given a new lease on life if we hope to successfully preserve the old heritage buildings. Can the Ipoh City Council do something about it?

Local Authorities, Do Your Bit for VPY

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By Jerry Francis

The success of the “Visit Perak Year 2012”, which has been slotted for next year in the country’s tourism calendar, can only be achieved with the full support of all local authorities in the state.

Each and every one of the local authorities must take stock of the tourist attractions available in their respective area and ensure that they are not only properly spruced up but also well maintained.

All entry points into the various districts, such as airports, railway stations and bus terminals, need to be kept clean and efficient, to make a good impression on visitors.

It is therefore seen as appropriate for the chairman of state tourism committee, Dato’ Hamidah Othman, to have recently hit out at the local authorities in Perak for not contributing to the improvement of the tourism industry.

“Only two local authorities, Taiping and Manjong, have made the effort to develop their tourist industry,” she declared. According to her even Kampar and Grik which have strong tourism potential, are not doing enough to tap the tourist value.

Hamidah gave the example of Grik which had excellent tourist products, Belum Rainforest and Temenggor Lake, but poor logistics made it difficult for tourists to access the products. Hamidah also commented that Ipoh City Council too could do more to improve its tourism sector.

However, we cannot expect much from the local authorities as they have their own priorities – which are to provide efficient service and good infrastructure to their residents.

Local authorities in Perak are not rich and rely largely on federal grants. They barely have sufficient funds to carry out minor development projects to the expectation of the residents in their respective districts.

The best they can do towards promoting tourism is to keep the areas under their jurisdiction beautiful and clean. But, sad to say, most of them cannot even provide this, let alone devote their attention to tourism development.

On the other hand, the state tourism committee was set up with the specific purpose of developing tourism in the state. With a state executive councillor in charge of tourism, the tourism committee certainly has the backing of the state government.

Therefore, it is essential for the state to have a dynamic and effective tourism committee to identify tourism potentials for development in the various districts. Only the tourism committee can co-ordinate the local authorities and private sector to develop and promote tourist attractions in the state.

Having just an aggressive publicity drive will not be sufficient. The state needs to carry out some ‘spring cleaning’ as well, before presenting itself for the Visit Perak Year 2012, themed “Green Tourism, Yours To Discover – Nature and Heritage”. The ground work in making the various tourist sites available and ready should be completed before the year end.

We need to upgrade all tourism facilities and attractions in the state. Every aspect of tourism, including the human factor, must be geared towards making the visitors’ stay in the state a pleasant and memorable one.

As the state is endowed with many seaside and island resorts, lakes, limestone hills and cave temples, archaeological sites, and nature parks among them, various attractive tour packages, encouraging tourists to spend more time in the state, must be made available and promoted. The tour packages can include stays in the seaside resorts in Lumut and Pangkor Island, in the Belum rainforest resorts, and adventure with nature involving caving, white-water rafting, river cruises to traditional fishing villages and abseiling at a waterfall.

Well, with Tourism Perak Management Bhd. already being revamped and tasked to spearhead the tourism promotion drive with an experienced general manager, Mohamed Hisam bin Mohamad Yusof, I am confident that the long neglected tourism industry in Perak will now be able to move ahead.

All players in the tourism industry in the state, including those who had in the past been only interested in outbound tours, could work closely to promote Perak within the country and abroad.

The Visit Perak Year is not just about a “one-off” campaign; it should be treated as the start of a long drawn major effort to lure tourists to the state. Its success can then be measured by the number of tourists coming into the state in subsequent years, after next year’s Visit Perak Year.

 

MBI’s Response to “Eyesores” In the City

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All “decrepit and dilapidated” buildings throughout the city have been identified, especially those along Jalan Sultan Idris Shah and Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah.

Ipoh city council’s director of corporate affairs, Hj Musa bin Dun, said this in a statement responding to a column “Eyesores in the City” published in the Ipoh Echo on April 16.

The status of these buildings is being classified under three categories: Bangunan Hampir Roboh (Near-dilapidated Building), Bangunan Telah Roboh Sebahagian (Partially-dilapidated building) and Bangunan Kerosakan Minor (Slightly-damaged Building).

“The Council will notify the owners to repair their properties and to ensure that they do not pose a threat to the public and passers-by.

Actions to fence-up the buildings and to remove weeds and plants that have taken root on the buildings will be taken by the Council. “They are aimed at ensuring public safety,” he added.

In his regular column, Jerry Francis had written that there are many condemned and dilapidated business premises which have become “eyesores” in the city centre. The city council appears to be helpless, except for putting flimsy partitions around such buildings. Others, though occupied, are seen with their roof tiles and wooden window frames hanging loosely and precariously, just waiting to fall. Wild plants are growing on the walls and roofs giving the impression of a dilapidated “hanging garden.”

“I dread the day that debris or parts of the buildings will fall and cause casualties among motorists and pedestrians,” he said.