Is Ipoh Too Big To Be Managed Efficiently?

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By Jerry Francis

When I read about Kuching South City being awarded a United Nations-backed “Tourist City Award” recently, I turned green with envy. Why can’t our city, which was once known as the cleanest in the country, attain such international or national recognition?

Kuching was the joint winner in the category – alongside Xining, in Qinghai, China – at the second World Cities Scientific Development Forum held in Chengdu, China. It is also the only Malaysian city accredited the United Nations’ Healthy City status.

The global competition was organised by the United Nations, World Cities Scientific Development Alliance and the Sister Cities International. More than 200 city officials from 30 countries took part.

It has always been my fervent desire to see Ipoh continue to be maintained and developed as a clean and beautiful city. Ipoh is my “adopted” hometown since I moved here with my family in 1973.

As a journalist, I have seen it grow from a municipal council under the Seenivasagam brothers into a city council. It was then a people-oriented municipal council with two councillors on duty daily to deal with the problems of ratepayers. It also provided efficient health and recreational facilities.

However, after it was upgraded to city status 23 years ago, it began to decline and lost even its image as the cleanest city in the country. Recreational parks (there were then the Taman D.R. Seenivasagam, People’s Park and Children’s Park in the city centre) had also lost their attractions, while thousands of illegal rubbish dumps and clogged drains are all over the city.

This is the reason, not because of being anti-establishment as I have been accused by some, that I have been highlighting the failures of the city council in the last two decades.

Perhaps we should consider dividing Ipoh into north and south, as in the case of Kuching, so that the council could provide efficient service and better amenities to the residents and restore its image and as well as giving Kuching South City a “run for the money”.

Ipoh has grown too big since it was declared a city in May, 1988. It covers 642.57 sq. km. north of the Kinta District, extending from the edge of Bukit Kinta Forest Reserve in the East to the Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve in the West, and from Khantan in the North to Changkat in the South with a population of well above 711,000.

As a result, the Ipoh City Council has to provide services and amenities as well to various towns, such as Tanjung Rambutan, Chemor, Meru, Lahat, Menglembu, Bercham, Gunung Rapat, Manjoi, Pengkalan and a number of villages and new growth areas.

No wonder the Mayor, Dato’ Roshidi Hashim, had conceded that the city’s jurisdiction has grown in size to such an extent that the city could not be expected to be as clean as during the era of the Seenivasagam brothers.

Recently, he also admitted that the drains in the city were poorly maintained as there were insufficient workers. He proposed to out-source the service.

However, since Ipoh attained city status, its manpower has also increased from just a few hundred to about 2,700 employees with much of its maintenance works being carried out by contractors. And yet the city council can still not cope with the workload. It appears the city council has been extended “a bridge too far” to have the capacity to provide efficient services and better amenities to its ratepayers.

Its area is now bigger than Kuala Lumpur, which covers 243 sq. km and has a population of 1.4 million. And even bigger than Kuching South City, Kuching North City and Kuching District put together, which have a combined area of 431.01 sq. km. and a population of 980,000.

With “Visit Perak Year” just around the corner, the city council needs to deal with all its problems fast. It has to carry out beautification projects, clean up the illegal rubbish dumps and clogged and stinking drains.

Otherwise, the city may even lose its top selling point, the delicious hawker food, as tourists will shy away from eating at many of the restaurants and food-courts, which may be considered by them as, dirty.

It is important that the influx of tourists expected during the “Visit Perak Year” have a good impression and a pleasant memory of the city after their visits if we are to consider our tourism efforts to be a success.

3 thoughts on “Is Ipoh Too Big To Be Managed Efficiently?

  1. There is no reason or excuse for Ipoh’s large size making her unmanageable. As with anything that has become too large, just break it down to manageable parts. The real complaint should not be that Ipoh has grown to large but that MBI has failed miserably in its management of Ipoh.

    The solution is effective planning and implementation. This is where MBI slipped up badly. Most Ipoh residents will agree that planning is sorely lacking, to the point that one wonders if there is any planning at all by MBI.

    There have been no solutions for long-standing issues, such as insufficient parking in the city centre. On the other hand, new property developments have made the parking problem more acute.

    For example, there are already badly insufficient parking spaces in Greentown area but MBI allows a new convention centre to be built on Bougainvillea Park. The seating capacity is 2,500 and if everyone comes in cars with 4 persons on board, 625 parking spaces will be required. But only 400+ parking spaces will be built. Where will the rest of the cars be parked?

    Perhaps some will take the bus and taxi but bus service in Ipoh is poor and inefficient, and taxi charges are high. As with most Malaysians, many will be driving their cars alone. Thus, many more parking spaces will be required.

    What MBI has to say about this? Their solution will be to impose summons on cars for illegal parking. Many drivers can drive round and round for a long time and still can’t find a parking space. It is not like they don’t want to park properly but no parking space can be found! Whose fault is this? Isn’t it the fault of MBI for bad or improper planning?

    And what has MBI done for Ipoh to reclaim the title of “Cleanest City in Malaysia”? Mostly NATO (no action, talk only). The Datuk Bandar made a big show going around Ipoh to “see the problem on the ground”. But the problem still persists despite MBI’s warning of imposing fines for illegal dumping of rubbish. Why don’t MBI just provide large rubbish bins at convenient locations and tell everyone to throw their rubbish there?

    Damaged roads and blocked drainage are often neglected until election time, when suddenly there is a flurry of remedial work. The road behind my home was widened last week. While most people appreciated it, the road width was not an issue at all. Cars and even lorries could pass each other before the widening. Money could have been used for other better purposes.

    Many American cities are divided into boroughs and suburbs. Chinese cities have districts. One central authority plans integrated development for the entire city. Local committees proposes and implements development on the ground level.

    Ipoh is already divided into 22 zones with a councilor responsible for each zone. Perhaps the councilors’ roles and responsibility can be expanded. Councilors should not just be in name only but really to serve the rakyat.

  2. I totally agree that Ipoh is becoming more dirty each passing day.
    Although there are many reasons for this, bad civic minded attitute of residents being one of it, the city council must share a big part of the blame. This is because I notice the city’s cleaniness start to deteriorate consistently after the rubbish disposal service becomes
    unreliable a few years back. Rubbish collection became irregular,
    as a result residents started dumping rubbish at the illegal rubbish dumps which sprung up like mushroom all over the city. Nowadays, it is these rubbish scattered all over along the road, inside drains, children
    playground, parks etc which greet visitors & residents.
    Is it not a shame for the authority to allow our beautiful city to deteriorate into these ? Do not give the excuse that the city is too big, there are bigger cities like Singapore & HK which are run efficiently & competently. Do a good job running the city or it may not have the opportunity after the next election !!

  3. i agree that the ipoh city council’s area is large, but there is no excuse for it not to be managed efficiently. certainly with a big area, the council’s collection of revenue is also bigger.
    the council’s manpower has also increased over the years. furthermore much of its workload, such as cutting grass and cleaning drains, have been given out to contractors.
    in my view the council is top heavy. various posts have been created, allowing the officials to just warm up their seats.
    what is lack in the council is dedication from the employees. just look, even its efforts to beautify the city for the visit perak year is lack of imagination.

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