Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sorry, the people object | theSundaily


Sorry, the people object

Posted on 29 April 2014 - 08:34pm

R. Nadeswaran

 they were events in the Olympics, Malaysians would have got that elusive gold medal years ago. When it comes to conjuring ideas and methods to make quick money or go on a rent-seeking exercise, our guys are always quick on the draw.

From privatisation of security ink to printing of currency notes, there're cronies and supporters with creative ideas with middlemen lurking in the background.
That is why when years ago, this columnist wrote in jest that someday, someone would send in a proposal to air-condition the beach front in Port Dickson, it was taken seriously.

"Acquire the land, lend us the money at dirt-cheap rates, give us a subsidy and allow us to collect the spoils for 60 years," is one of the many mantras used when someone wants a slice of the public transport system.

The Kinrara Damansara Skyway (Kidex) – a 14.9km elevated highway starting at the New Klang Valley Expressway's (NKVE) Damansara toll plaza and terminating at the Bukit Jalil Highway may not fall into this category. Its promoters are pushing it as one project that would ease the traffic congestion in the city.

They argue that Kidex is the best way to ease congestion in an area with a rapidly growing traffic as it will complement public transport improvements, but not only will it cost RM2.42 billion, but more than 300 buildings will have to make way for this elevated monster.

Hundreds of thousands road users and residents in Petaling Jaya are joining the objections against the project and their voices are becoming louder. Concerned residents have claimed that the proposed super-elevated Kidex highway would run close to familiar landmarks in the state and, at up to 24m high, obstruct existing views.

Among the areas that could be affected by the project are Tropicana Mall, SS2 Mall, Rothman's traffic lights, Section 14, Amcorp Mall, Hilton Petaling Jaya, Tun Hussein Onn Eye Hospital, Jalan Templer roundabout, Taman Datuk Harun, Taman Medan Baru and Bandar Kinrara.

When the Damansara-Puchong (LDP) and Sprint highways were built, we were told that these two would alleviate the massive traffic jams.

However, these are already bursting at the seams with the LDP running on 130% capacity. Call it bad planning or the lack of it, development had been approved (on both sides of the highways) without taking into consideration the infrastructure, hence the massive traffic build-up during peak hours.

But Kidex gives a different form of headache for PJ residents, especially those whose homes will be compulsorily acquired or affected by depreciation in property value.

Core to the issue is freezing of 3,784 land lots from being traded on July 18 last year. These land lots are within 100m of the highway's proposed corridor. All in all, up to 300 houses will be compulsorily acquired.

But fundamental to any project that affects the people is consultation, which has been conspicuously absent. At a time when the federal government claims it has abandoned its "government knows best" principle, the state government has forgotten its "abolish tolls" promise.

Although there is a consultation mechanism as pointed out by the Works Ministry, shouldn't it have been done BEFORE approval was given? Is it just a window-dressing to appease the people and claim there was consultation when the decision had already been made?

Two weeks ago, the Works Ministry assured Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo that Kidex must fulfil a "condition precedent" 12 months before the concession agreement is enforced and that a "public survey" is a necessary pre-condition.

The ministry's reply stated that the project cannot go ahead if public feedback is negative. The reply also said that construction work is slated to begin next year if there were no objections.

Now that there are objections from the most important of the stakeholders – the people – shouldn't there be a re-think of this whole exercise?

Or, is the government insistent on shoving such projects down the throats of its citizens whose lives will be inconvenienced by yet another concrete structure protruding above our normal roads? Or will that public survey be yet another eyewash?

R. Nadeswaran argues that the process of consultation, especially when it affects the people, cannot be dispensed with arbitrarily. Comments: citizen-nades@thesundaily.com

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