by BERNAMA / pic by BERNAMA
KUCHING – Kuching division, with a land mass of 4,560 sq km, which is bigger than the states of Perlis, Melaka and Penang combined, provides a tremendous challenge, as well as opportunities for development initiatives in a big way.
Yet, since Sarawak gained its independence by being one of the four partnering nations in the formation of Malaysia in 1963, the state’s success to weather through the turbulent early years had benefitted Kuching as it rose to become what it is today.
After the state’s administration was divided into 12 divisions in 2015, the Kuching division now comprised three districts, namely Kuching, Bau and Lundu, which underwent enormous development since the second decade of the new millennium.
That decade came as the tail-end to the remarkable era of Sarawak’s fourth and longest serving Chief Minister to date, Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud, who had earlier in 1988, precisely on Aug 8, marked another peak of his achievements by successfully elevating Kuching town into a city.
Even after Abdul Taib stepped down on Feb 28, 2014, Kuching Division continued to enjoy the development as the pioneer territory of Sarawak under the late (posthumously bestowed Pehin Sri) Tan Sri Adenan Satem before Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg took over.
Abang Johari is also the Assemblyman for Satok, a Malay-dominated constituency located at the heart of Kuching, and this area, despite undergoing urban transformation over the years, is still able to sustain its traditional kampung-styled environment.
An iconic pedestrian bridge, aptly named Jambatan Darul Hana, which was built at a cost of RM35 million near the very spot where the last British Governor, Sir Alexander Waddle, crossed from the Astana Negeri to the opposite bank on the final day of British rule in Sarawak.
Though it came as a new landmark, the bridge brought nostalgia of life along the Sarawak River in the yesteryears as the state government gave its commitment to maintain a number of other prominent buildings which had been in existence for a century or more in the Kuching city.
That is just one of the many projects that the state government initiated at a ceremony to mark Kuching City’s 32nd anniversary last year.
Abang Johari said that a longer term plan would be to rejuvenate certain parts of the city until 2025 that were deemed to be run down and required some facelifts.
“In fact, there are many areas in Kuching that we can redevelop without affecting the traditional values. We want to rejuvenate it so that we have a modern city, aside from preserving the traditional areas, which may only be given a facelift,” he said, adding that the rejuvenation will be guided by a long term masterplan that had been drawn out.
Similarly, Kuching’s neighbouring district, Bau, once known for its gold mining activities has started moving away from prospecting this valuable mineral to venture into new economic endeavours, which Abang Johari had recently described, would create “new gold” for the people.
This confidence was shown by the state government with an allocation of RM164.8 million over the last four years for the implementation of several projects in Bau, a semi-urban district located about 33 km southwest of the city once famous for gold mining.
Tasik Biru State Assemblyman Datuk Henry Harry Jinep said the allocation had been distributed for the construction of public amenities, affordable housing scheme, treated water pipeline and rural electrification scheme, as well as road improvement works.
He said development in Bau would continue as the state government had already a blueprint to chart its future progress up to 2030 to ensure the district would be on par with other well-developed districts in Sarawak.
“People have seen tremendous development taking place in Bau within the four-year period and it will continue to be implemented once the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) is lifted,” he said.
Lundu, the southern most district in Sarawak, has plenty to offer, and even easier access, following the completion of the RM580 million 33.7km Telok Melano-Sematan package of the Pan Borneo Highway project in 2019, and to become another tourism destination in the state.
The late Adenan, who was the Assemblyman for Tanjung Datu, which covered Lundu district, before his passing in 2017, used to have a joke to describe the potential of the district as haven for anglers.
He said Lundu sea had a lot of fish to catch.
“The fish is just too many here (in Lundu) to an extent that most of the fish would die of old age,” as his punchline goes in one of the events that he attended some years back in the district.
The potentials of the district to emerge as another tourist destination in Sarawak had been acknowledged by Abang Johari, who said a masterplan had been drawn out for its development, which would include basic infrastructure for tourism development.
“With the availability of such infrastructure, the private sector can come in to invest and market this destination to the world. We have national parks and beautiful beaches as the attraction,” he added.