By Joachim Ng
Property developers are behaving more like the local councils in providing services and infrastructure, observes Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah. He concedes that some councils have failed in providing basic services to the people, causing developers to step in and fill the void.
Let’s hope that all councillors have taken note of his keynote address entitled “Reimagining the Housing and Property Industry in the New Malaysia” delivered at a colloquium in Kuala Lumpur a month ago. Is there a big difference between Old Malaysia and New Malaysia at ground level? Life at the centre probably has changed for the better. How about life further out?
Two months before the May 9 general election, this columnist toured four suburbs in Ipoh city — Menglembu, Jelapang, Silibin and Buntong. They all looked the same at the ground; that is to say, litter was strewn about the roadsides, open spaces and drains. Five months after GE14 this columnist revisited Menglembu, Jelapang, Silibin and Buntong, adding Chemor to the list. The colourful scenery hasn’t changed. Plastic bags and paper cartons stand out in sharp contrast to the dull green grass at the roadsides and open spaces. Here and there disused mattresses dot the landscape, and stormwater drain sumps are stuffed with throwaways. In Menglembu, the smoke from open burning of a huge pile of garbage near a children’s playground is clearly visible to apartment and terraced house residents.
Ironically, gigantic signboards prominently displayed at many busy stretches carry the slogan: Ipoh Bersih, Hijau dan Maju. As such, there is a chronic disconnect between what is promised and what is delivered. Is it important that we keep the nation clean? Yes, dirty streets carry dirty implications. Local councils appoint cleaning service contractors to do the job, and contractual fees are paid every month using ratepayers’ money. If the job is not done, it is wastage of public funds.
There is also a life-threatening implication. Litter is home to killer mosquitoes and deadly germs because they trap stagnant water and food particles. Litter litter everywhere is a giveaway sign of a nation’s health index. If you see abundant litter in the residential areas of all cities and towns, the next thing to do is check the nation’s dengue and cancer rates. What’s the connection? Litter tells you that people are generally unaware that environmental abuse is a major factor that brings on deadly ailments as well as climate change.
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