Overcoming KL’s rapid population growth

One of the greatest challenges that have to be mitigated by FT Minister Khalid, who is entering his 1st year in office


Kuala Lumpur (KL) is growing fast, and its boundaries are extending by the day. What used to be suburban areas and satellite towns are now already part of the great city.

In fact, if KL is a virus, it seems to be “infecting” more areas in the Klang Valley to be incorporated into its territory.

With the rapid growth, better solutions are needed to address various issues that are faced by the population as well.

At present, around 1.76 million people live in the Malaysia capital city in an area of about 24,000ha.

From as early as the nineties, the movement to connect various key areas in the city via efficient transportation services has been one of the main concerns.

The light rapid transit (LRT), which began operation in the late 90s, is certainly the major impetus for other similar rail services that have made KL a thriving place for the growing number of commuters.

Now, one can commute from the southern point in Kajang all the way to the northern area of Sungai Buloh while choosing to alight at any station in between.

Few of the stations are also integrated with other rail and bus systems, which run through the city centre, making the lives of more than 100,000 daily commuters easier.

Still, many prefer to drive their own vehicle perhaps due to the first-and-last-mile public transport puzzle that needs to be solved.

This is but one of the greatest challenges that have to be mitigated by Federal Territory (FT) Minister Khalid Abdul Samad, who is entering his first year in office since Pakatan Harapan’s victory at the 14th General Election.

Khalid said the ministry is expected to appoint a consultant that could assist the government in finding solutions to Kuala Lumpur’s traffic woes.

“We are going to open the tender this August. Our aim is to ensure that all main roads in the city centre can achieve “C” level, the most practical and viable level for our country according to the national standard,” he told a media conference in Putrajaya last Monday.

Khalid said currently, most of the KL main roads are graded “D” and “F” which are deemed unsatisfactory to users.

“Although it is one of the Pakatan Harapan’s main agenda, it cannot be solved overnight. The mid-term and long-term plans need to be studied thoroughly so it would gel into our KL City Plan 2020-2040,” he said.

Khalid said the blueprint is expected to be displayed to the public by the end of the year.

He added that KL City Hall (DBKL) had spent RM20 million for its free GoKL Bus maintenance, which has somehow slightly improved the first-mile connectivity for the lower income group (B40), as the service caters to the low-cost housing areas.

GoKL Bus offers free rides to areas with easy access like railway stations and other public transport facilities.

He also said the service currently benefits more than 1,000 passengers a day.

Township Planning and Development

Apart from transportation, township planning along with the revamping of housing projects would likely be Khalid’s priority in the next four years, before Pakatan Harapan surrenders its executive and legislative power to the ballot box.

Of all the projects that would benefit the people, Khalid singled out the Kampung Baru (Kg Baru) redevelopment project as his personal Key Performance Index (KPI).

He said the only way to ensure that the Malay enclave could be transformed into a “Modern 21st Century Kampung Melayu”, while generating a high value on the land, is that the whole 101ha area has to be owned and managed by the federal government.

Khalid said the government would need to fork out between RM6 billion to RM10 billion to buy the whole 101ha land.

DBKL had spent RM20m for its free GoKL Bus maintenance for the B40 as the service caters to the low-cost housing areas (Pic by Muhd Amin Naharul/TMR)

DBKL could consider issuing municipal bonds to raise the capital to buy over the entire area, a better alternative to the current plot amalgamation mechanism that is deemed to be not as viable for the Kg Baru transformation programme, which seems to have reached a stalemate a decade after the project was initiated.

In fact, the current government has somehow inherited the same set of problems faced by the past administration.

Ownership, land titles and price valuations issues remain the main stumbling block for the project to move forward.

The Kg Baru Detailed Development Master Plan that was drafted in 2015 was supposed to include the construction of 17,500 residential units to accommodate up to 77,000 people by 2035 on the 121.8ha area, with an estimated development cost of RM43 billion.

Under the plan, Kg Baru Development Corp (KBDC) was tasked to facilitate the redevelopment joint ventures between some 5,000 landlords who own 1,355 lots and various property developers. That alone involves 89ha of Malay land reserve.

The village, that was classified as Malay Agricultural Settlement (MAS) by the British administration since 1900, is arguably the most valuable piece of land owned by the Malays.

However, the land ownership titles were issued only in 1965, causing a complex web of landlord concerns that had to be facilitated by KBDC.

Additionally, KBDC was also tasked to look at the possible and practical development of the surrounding areas including unit of flats and terraces which were developed later than the MAS zone.

The earlier vision was for the surrounding projects to be the catalyst for the redevelopment of the MAS area. The plan, however, had not produced the desired result.

“We hope that this time, the government’s initiative could help resolve the Kg Baru citizens woes which is a long inherited problem and that they could also settle off their land or property distributions among the landlords,” Khalid said.

According to Khalid, landowners could also opt to choose between cash and “in-kind” benefits such as home units, that would also allow them to continue to be the Kg Baru heir.

He said it is important that when the government takes over the land, Kg Baru will remain as a “Malay township”.

Khalid said there is currently no plan to activate the Land Acquisition Act 1960, which would allow the government to take over their properties forcefully.

However, Khalid said based on the committee’s latest study, the move is supported by the majority of Kg Baru landlords.

In a statement last Monday, KBDC council advisory member Syed Badli Shah Syed Osman, who is also a Kg Baru landlord, welcomes the initiative, as long as all landowners are engaged directly by the government in the decision-making process.

Next Stop: Rimba Kiara

Of all the projects that would benefit the people, Khalid singled out the Kg Baru redevelopment project as his personal KPI (Pic By Muhd Amin Naharul/TMR)

While Kg Baru is at the top of his agenda, Khalid is also bent on solving the Taman Rimba Kiara issue, a high-rise project that is making the residents of Taman Tun Dr Ismail very unhappy.

The project’s original plan, that comprises eight blocks of high-end condominium, was earlier scaled down to four blocks involving 3.2ha of land, instead of 4.9ha.

The housing development, which was approved by Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur in 2016, was located an a plot that was designated as a public open space under the Kuala Lumpur City Plan 2020.

The tricky part for Khalid is that the project is already in progress. To scrap the project totally, DBKL would have to pay RM150 million in compensation to the developer.

Khalid had to go through several rounds of renegotiation with the residents and developer to get the project to be revised.

Now, the project has been revised again. Only 1.6ha of open space would taken up for the development, half of the 3.2ha in the earlier revised plan.

The project now also includes a 29-storey block with 350 units meant for Bukit Kiara longhouse residents.

Despite the efforts, Khalid said the revised plan still did not go down well with the Taman Tun Dr Ismail’s residents.

“So, we will continue negotiating. The developers had already agreed to scale down the project. This is the best that I could do.

“I want to resolve this problem this year because some 100 families living at the longhouse had been waiting for (permanent housing units) for more than 36 years,” he said.

Almost Half a Billion Ringgit Recovered

Another notable success initiated by Khalid is the recovery of almost half a billion ringgit of DBKL’s money through renegotiations on 97 lands with “dubious transactions”.

Khalid said the success had boosted DBKL’s income by RM481 million, an amount that is earned in cash and land refundable value as a result of the land transactions review.

Of the total, 14 projects were cancelled, 15 were renegotiated and five were litigated before reaching out-of-court settlements.

Some of the 20 transactions are still being investigated, while the remaining cases will resume as planned earlier.

Khalid said the gazetting of the Kuala Lumpur Development Plan 2020 in October last year was also a good move to control the development of Kuala Lumpur.

The Kuala Lumpur Development Plan 2020-2040 is currently on the drawing board and is expected to be put on public display at the end of the year.

The new plan is expected to reduce the current high population and development density per people ratio from 2,000 people per acre to 1,000 people per acre.

The ministry had also established the KL Minister Council comprising all of the 11 KL MPs, as well as the DBKL mayor and high-rank officers, who would meet bimonthly to discuss matters and issues pertaining to the city.

RFP for Putrajaya Monorail

As for Putrajaya, Khalid said the ministry plans to open the Request for Proposal (RFP) for a monorail system, as well as a new bus system that could enhance the public transport connectivity and efficiency in the federal government executive branch.

“We did not manage to do it this year. Perhaps we can initiate it by next year,” he said.

It was reported that the Transport Ministry and Putrajaya Corp, the owner of the Putrajaya Monorail project, was supposed to issue a RFP last January in order to revive the long-suspended rail system.

The original project was supposed to be the LRT within Putrajaya which included two lines — Line 1 being 13.2km with 18 stations and Line 2 being 6.8km with seven stations.

The project was, however, suspended during former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s tenure due to budgetary issues, resulting in most of the tracks lying dormant and unused.

Khalid also dismissed the idea of a tram-train system connecting Putrajaya to Bangi, Cyberjaya and Kajang, as proposed by the Land Public Transport Commission last year.

He said the proposed 53km line of project would only add congestion to the existing Putrajaya road.

“As of now, we only consider the elevated system for Putrajaya public transport such as the monorail or LRT for the local commuting,” he said.

Khalid said managing three territories (including FT of Labuan) involve town planning and development, while putting in an efficient transportation mode in the major metropolitan area would remain his huge responsibility.

KL, Putrajaya and Labuan are now home to two million people within a total of 38,100ha of land.