By A. Jeyaraj
The Ipoh City Council (MBI) plans to change the land use of 10 areas in Kinta District. One of these areas is a 470-acre plot of land in Kanthan (opposite Kampung Baru Kanthan) which is to be changed from “Agricultural” to “Industrial”. At the moment there are about 50 small farmers growing vegetables and rearing fish in the area. Perak State Development Corporation (PKNP) wants to convert the whole area, which is about 1000 acres, into a factory zone.
Residents in Lim Garden, Kampung Manjoi and surrounding housing estates are worried because a few tributaries of Sungai Pari come from this area. When the area is developed as a factory zone, the surface run-off will increase from its current 15% to about 90%. Surface run-off is the percentage of rainwater that will enter the river in the first two hours after rain.
If the government allows PKNP to go ahead with its plans to develop the entire 1000 acres in Kanthan into a mixed industrial and residential zone, flood problems in Lim Garden/Kampung Manjoi will worsen. During flooding now, the water level in Sungai Pari rises to less than two feet from the top of the bunds. With increased surface run-offs from Kanthan and other projects, there is a danger of the river overflowing its bunds. This had occurred once before.
The effluent from factories would also flow into Sungai Pari and pollute the river. Even now, there are few fishes in the river. There are a number of small farms along the river. People are rearing poultry and cattle along the river banks and these would be affected.
The laws regarding town planning require the local council to inform the public about its plans to develop land and to invite suggestions and objections. MBI has prepared an Objection Form (Borang Bantahan Awam) which is to be submitted to them by the public. If there are objections, MBI will have to hold a public hearing to listen to the objections and respond to them.
Lim Garden Residents Association distributed copies of the form to the residents, including one duly filled to be used as a sample. The forms from Lim Garden have been submitted to MBI. For my part, I gave the form to a representative in Kampung Manjoi, and when I met him a couple days later he said that he had discussed it with the Penghulu. I explained that each individual should sign the form.
I contacted the Rukun Tetangga Chairman of a housing estate that is often flooded and gave him the forms. He informed me that he had discussed it with his committee but they were not interested. I contacted a few of my friends and they said that they would collect the forms from me, but did not do so in spite of repeated reminders. I handed the forms to two representatives of housing estates. They said they had the forms signed, but never returned them to me. They were not reachable. I made additional copies of the forms and it was a waste of money.
I am writing this to let readers know that it is not easy to get people to sign petitions; they feel it is not safe. The so-called educated and uneducated have the same attitude. We have been brought up not to get involved in these things.
Whenever there is flooding, politicians are the first ones to go to the area and hand out food packets and call the media and make statements. So I decided to visit the DAP Service Centre in Buntong and ask for their assistance. One of the staff said they are busy with other things and flooding is not their priority. That’s how committed political parties are.
During the rainy season when houses are flooded, there would be a hue and cry from the residents. Once the flood has subsided, things return to normal and people forget. Now here is an opportunity for people to protest against a project that would increase risks of flooding. Instead of being proactive, people want to keep quiet. Many people are afraid to participate in these types of events. They think it is other peoples’ responsibility. The persons I contacted are responsible citizens and involved in social work, yet they were not prepared to do their bit, still .
MBI has not set a date for the hearing. I have attended similar hearings earlier. It is a formality and the government will go ahead with the proposed projects. The chairperson in these meetings has no authority and I am not sure how much he is involved in the project. His job is to record the proceedings and pass on the information to the committee that makes the decision.
As concerned citizens, we should exercise our rights regardless of the outcome. In the future if there is massive flooding, we can tell MBI that we had warned them.