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City&Country: Cover Story-- ‘A heritage we can leave behind for our children’

Q&A with Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim

Your thoughts on the Klang River rehabilitation and development project.
Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim: The Klang River project is part of the state’s economic stimulus package, which is a proactive measure to boost Selangor’s economy. As a state government, Selangor cannot do much with its funds as the bulk of it goes to administration and council work. That’s why we came up with a package that is able to utilise and maximise the state’s resources and assets for the people’s benefit.

One of the state’s assets is the Klang River. It may be a dirty river now, but I see a lot of potential there. If properly rehabilitated, it can be converted into an important waterway, a source of clean water, and the surrounding land transformed into premium real estate and recreational areas. With the right policies and determination, I believe it can be done. It has been done in other countries and I believe it should have been done earlier. Look at how well a clean river has benefited the people of Singapore, South Korea, Australia and the UK.

What challenges do you see in the implementation of the project?
Among them will be to re-site illegal squatters, factories and farms by the riverbanks. Although the 50m on each side of the riverbank along Selangor has been gazetted, the physical move will not be easy. We hope to provide an alternative for all those who have to be relocated elsewhere.

In addition, 40km of the Klang River is under the jurisdiction of the Kuala Lumpur City Hall. It will be necessary for us to meet with them and work out an arrangement, which ensures the rehabilitation project is holistic. After all, the water that flows out of KL is more polluted than that which flows in. I hope they will cooperate with the Selangor government in this exercise.

When can physical work kick-off?
We hope to start physical work by the middle of this year.

Why the Klang River?
It is the most prominent river in the Klang Valley. It flows through very important towns and cities in the Klang Valley. But yet it is prominent for all the wrong reasons due to its unattractive physical outlook and uncleanliness. It is named after the royal city of Klang and I believe we should take the river back to its glory days. That’s why our first phase starts in the royal town just as we announced at the Klang River Carnival, which was also attended by the Sultan. The Klang River also has important tributaries that flow through smaller townships that will be the next stages to target after the main river project is underway, like Sungai Penchala and so on.

Other thoughts/comments?
It is time for us to craft a new vision for what we want Selangor to look like in several decades to come, and shape our policies and programmes in line with this vision. By transforming a natural resource given to us, we will successfully be able to translate something of zero value (or negative value, given its current polluted state) into something of tremendous value in time to come. The riverbank development will, I hope, boost the economy, liveability and sustainability of the cities along the river. Injecting new life into Klang, Shah Alam, Subang Jaya, Petaling Jaya and Ampang Jaya, we believe this is the sort of worthwhile project that the government should spend time and energy on. Something that will last a lifetime. A heritage that we can leave behind for our children.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 798, Mar22 - 28, 2010

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