In No Position to Comment

By A. Jeyaraj

After reading about the Perak State Draft Structural Plan 2040 in Ipoh Echo Issue 278 (April 1 – 16, 2018), I visited PLANMalaysia office at Jalan Panglima Bukit Gantang Wahab, Ipoh and met with one of its officers. The officer spent about an hour explaining the plan to me.

Experts and consultants must have spent months, or perhaps years, to prepare the blueprint. Thus, a one-hour allocation is insufficient to explain the whole of its contents. All we did was to go through the headings of the topics where a cursory discussion would have been more appropriate. More time is, therefore, needed to know the complete details.

Incidentally, the print version of Ipoh Echo has over 100,000 readers while its online website has  in excess of one million, based on hits alone. Out of this, I am the only one to call PLANMalaysia. It goes to show how interested Perakeans are to know what is being planned for them for the future.

At Ipoh City Council, where the plan is on display, six people had signed the visitors’ book while at PLANMalaysia office, two students from a local university were seen. I am certain there were those who did not sign the book or had overlooked it. It is part of our culture, not wanting to get involved in anything until it affects us. Or perhaps, there was insufficient publicity. I prefer not to speculate.

Perak Structural Plan 2040 is not something to be read along the corridor of an office. It has facts, figures and statistics that need to be digested and computed. Ordinary people, including professionals, cannot comprehend it, let alone make comments. It is not designed for laymen like you and I. You have to be in the know to understand it first-hand.

Nonetheless, I will try to make some observations based on my own understanding of the Plan.

What struck me as odd is, there are no references made on flood mitigation projects. During the wet season many places in Perak, including Ipoh, are inundated. With the current erratic weather conditions, things will get worse. After widespread flooding in 2012, many recommendations were made but were not implemented. Floods will occur. Must we wait for another major disaster to happen before acting?

Medan Kidd’s strategic location makes it an ideal spot for Ipoh’s own Central Station but, unfortunately, this is neither mentioned nor referred to in the Perak Structural Plan 2040. Reference is made of a Metropolitan Rail System and that was about all. There is no mention of its location or its connectivity.

Presently, no buses go to housing estates from the railway station and the Amanjaya bus terminal. Passengers either take a cab or use the popular e-haling application on their mobile phones or simply wait to be picked up by their relatives or friends. This deficiency can be addressed immediately, if there is a will.

To perpetuate a healthy lifestyle, the Plan recommends people to either walk or cycle. However, for such a proposal to be viable dedicated lanes and walkaways must be built. Oddly, there is no mention of this.

There are projects for the wellbeing of senior citizens. Whenever the government talks about senior citizens, the focus is on government pensioners, not oldies from the private sector like me. All senior citizens must enjoy the same privileges. Surely we ought to be consulted on what we want.

In the plan, a casual reference is made on green technology. I often see Council workers trimming or cutting down old trees along thoroughfares and streets but seldom see anyone planting trees.

Programmes for food production such as the rearing of cattle for meat and milk are illustrated. Currently, individual cattle breeders have about 30 to 40 animals under his care. Breeders should form a co-operative so they can oversee a larger amount of livestock. Having said that, it must be mandatory that cows, bulls and buffaloes should not be reared within city limits like we see now.

During the launch of Perak State Structural Plan 2040 at the State Secretariat Building on Tuesday, March 13, Menteri Besar  Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abd Kadir welcomed comments from the public. And upon collating all feedback a public hearing would be held, he added.

As I have explained earlier, the public is in no position to make comments for reasons given. If the state government is serious in wanting public’s participation and inputs it should embark on a roadshow throughout the state.

Political representatives and municipal councillors must explain to residents in their respective constituencies and zones.  Only by doing so can the state authority get the feedback they desire. Otherwise it will be another exercise in futility.

And like all things else, the state government, will eventually bulldoze through the projects claiming, unabashedly, that the public has agreed to the Plan in question. I am certain this will be the outcome.

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