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Over development killing the City
Published on: Sunday, July 01, 2018

By Dr John Ariffin

Living within Kota Kinabalu city limits can be a nightmare. What used to be a beautiful waterfront city is now choked with traffic and overbuilding.

High rise buildings like the 30 stories Jesselton Residences and 25 stories Mecure Hotel now obstruct views of the city skyline from the Observatory Towers, a landmark tourism site.

More high rise development like the 30 storeys Jesselton Quay have been approved and construction begun, blocking the remaining view of the sea from the Observatory Tower, currently the highest point for tourists to view the city.

Eventually tourists who climb the Signal Hill, who wish to view the city skyline, or catch the breathtaking sunset Sabah is famous for, will see nothing but concrete blocks.

As for the Observatory Towers, there is nothing to shout about. It’s a major traffic hazard.

It’s a wonder that no incident has occured so far as visitors block the roads and park haphazardly in blind spots on daily basis. The authorities seems oblivious to the dangers near the observatory towers and should not plead ignorance. They should not wait for something to happen to take action.

What is the branding for KK City? There was a time when it was mooted as a rainforest city.

Then in January Musa announced ambitious plans to transform the Malaysian state into another Singapore or Dubai.

Cities like Singapore has its own history of how the city evolved and different economic drivers.

Singapore was driven by entrepôt trade and Dubai by oil money.

Sabah’s selling point has always been ecotourism, attracting visitors to its beautiful islands, tropical rainforest, and unique wildlife. Our environment is so fragile that we have witnessed the extinction of the Borneo rhino in our lifetime.

People come to Sabah to see our ecotourism offers and not wanting to see high rise buildings, blocking the scenic views of the waterfront.

Let’s face it. KK CBD has little to offer apart from the nearby islands, the Atkinson clock tower, the Observatory tower and the fast depleting seafood. I wouldn’t include the Yayasan Sabah buildings and the Masjid Bandaraya as key attractions as most tourists have their iconic landmarks in their own countries.

Ours is pale in comparison and of little historical significance.

It’s ironic that all waterfront developers selling point is the unobstructed view of the sea and Islands.

What buyers will eventually get is views of another concrete block, cutting off the sunlight and the sea breeze.

There are reports that the previous BN government has approved another 8 blocks of high rise development in front of Jesselton residences, which will add more traffic nightmares and environmental pollution.

More and more development are fuelled by self interest, greed, poor planning and execution, and financial mismanagement. This has led to abandoned buildings, disputes between buyers and sellers.

The Star Asia City development by the land owners Sabah Urban Development Corporation (SUDC) remains an eyesore, the 1 Sulaman project abandoned, 1Borneo Hyper mall developer under receivership, disputes between Oceanus developers and buyers getting uglier, and KK Skybridge delayed over non-payments.

Another 56 stories Jesselton Twin Towers in Luyang is being launched. If we don’t get it right, KK will be dotted with abandoned projects creating more eyesores, giving a bad impression to tourists visiting the state.

One of the major problems is the pollution of the sea. Do we have a good sewerage system?

Does the waterfront development sewer lines end up in the sea? Do we have a good garbage disposal system?

If you swim in the islands off KK you are likely to encounters flotsam thrown into the sea by the villagers living on Pulau Gaya water villages. There are no proper rubbish disposals system in place and everything is dumped into the sea effecting marine life and water quality.

For the two resorts on Gaya Island, it’s a constant battle to clean its surroundings of flotsam and debris brought in by the incoming tides. The same goes with Likas Bay, just a stone throw away from the Chief Minister’s office.

Rubbish from the confluence of river and streams around KK end up in Likas Bay adding to more pollution of the sea.

Smaller third world countries and cities like Kenya, Vanuatu, Zimbabwe and Rwanda, have already started banning plastics and styrofoam, including imposing heavy fines.

Closer to home, Taiwan is a shining example of what should be done to manage wastes and turn it into power generation. KK started charging 20 cents for plastic bags but nobody seems to know where the money goes to.

No more news is heard about the 20 cents collection and supermarkets seems to have stopped collecting the amount.

For years we blamed economic migrants for the pollution, but we should blame ourselves for our indifference.

If you visit Palawan city you will be amazed how clean and safe the place is.

Palawan has been given numerous accolades as the country’s cleanest, greenest and most peaceful city.

Why is that Palawan, which is lower than Kota Kinabalu in the economic ladder, and with the same tourism attraction, can keep its city green and clean.

Kota Kinabalu City should learn the lessons from the Boracay Island, Philippines, where the government ordered a 6 months closure. The island is lauded for its white sand beaches, but problems of sewage being dumped into the sea by local hotels and restaurants, and buildings constructed too close to the shoreline, has put the island under threat. Environment undersecretary Jonas Leones said an iron fist is needed to bring it back to its previous condition.

Poor public transportation is another major problem with the city. There are so many studies done and talks to implement an efficient public transportation and bus terminals but with little visible results.

If you look at the bus terminal at Padang Merdeka, you will pity the poor people who have to wait in the sun or rain for the buses or taxis to be filled up. This is a few metres from the historical town padang where North Borneo was transformed to become part of Malaysia. After 55 years of independence, the previous government could not even provide a decent shelter for its own citizens to wait for taxis and buses to take them back to the interior towns.

Every few weeks we see car carriers unloading new cars which will eventually enter our road systems.

The previous government solution is to build more flyovers.

What you get is a few seconds euphoric experience without traffic lights before you join the jammed roads once again. Efficient public transportation is something the new Warisan led government needs to look into urgently.

Gridlock leads to poor productivity, more fuel consumption, more pollution and frustrations.

The previous BN government was full of politics in their decision making process.

If the new government can solve the people’s concerns like TAED in double quick time and return it to the people, there is much hope in the Warisan government to make KK a liveable city.

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