A lot of green lungs in the state have been sacrificed due to sprawl development, says Ng
by AFIQ AZIZ / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
A VERTICAL development model, which focuses on high-rise buildings, will provide a better living quality and help preserve jungles.
However, Selangor executive councillor (exco) Ng Sze Han (picture) said people’s lifestyle, mindset and appetite demand state governments to continue opening green lungs for future development, mainly houses.
Ng, who is in charge of Selangor’s local councils, public transport and new village development, said living and working in a high-density area are always linked to heavy congestion and lack of amenities.
This perception is the main reason people are living outside of city centres and township areas.
Ng stressed that the perception needs to be changed.
He said the shift to a vertical development, namely the concept of transit-oriented development (TOD), is critical and examples can be seen in developed countries like Singapore and Hong Kong.
TOD is a planning and design strategy in which a complete township is developed within 400m, or at most 800m, from transportation hubs, mainly railways.
“In Malaysia, the ridership for public transportation is still not very encouraging, as it takes too long to get to the city centre because our township is scattered and the development is horizontal in nature.
“There could be so many stations along one rail route, even within one kilometre. With the train having to stop every one kilometre, it would be a long time before one reaches their destination,” Ng said.
He added that because commuters do not want to live near the stations, they would have to drive home for the remaining distance, which could discourage them to use the train.
“In the end, people choose to drive to work and this does not only harm the environment through carbon emission, but it is also a waste of travelling time,” Ng told The Malaysian Reserve.
On top of that, he said if people continue to live further away from the city, this would cause more plots of land to be explored.
“This is not sustainable and it is a challenge we are facing with our current township model.”
Ng said Selangor, where public transport use is a bit higher than the national rate, should emulate how Singapore plans its town development.
“If people are willing to stay in high-rise houses and live within the city, this will provide better quality of life.
“But of course, we need a very efficient transportation plan for them to commute,” he said.
According to a study by Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Architecture, Planning and Surveying Faculty, Kuala Lumpur (KL) experienced a huge uncontrolled urban sprawl in the 1990s, in which the use of land was more than the population growth.
The report stated that the greenfield land opened up was more than the 10% population increase, as people started to move out from the city centre to areas like Hulu Langat and Klang in Selangor, attributed to cheaper land cost while still working in KL.
The study also found that the population in Hulu Langat has since grown to the same size as KL, but it warned of the risk of water pollutions at the water catchment zone, besides raising the issue of deforestation.
Currently, some 35% of Selangor comprises forest. A rate which, according to Ng, the state aims to maintain.
“We have actually sacrificed a lot of our green lungs for development,” Ng said, adding that the sprawl development significantly costing the state’s economy.
According to the 2015 World Bank (Malaysia Economic Monitor): Transforming Urban Transport report, residents of Greater KL spent more than 250 million hours a year stuck in traffic, which translated to a total of RM20 billion annually due to the waste from fuel used, carbon emission and hours that could be used in the office.
Statistics also suggest that in the next two decades, more than eight million people are expected to reside in Selangor, from the current six million.
As such, Ng said it is paramount for the state to have a sustainable TOD planning to cater for the population growth.
“But again, to have this concept, we need to reduce congestion in the TOD areas, which is why an efficient public transport system with a good network is really important.
“At present, I believe with today’s lifestyle, people would be willing to take public transport for work. If they can get to their office quick and cheap enough, perhaps nobody would have to drive.
“However, it is a chicken and egg situation. Whether you have a better public transport network built first, or you do the development first in order to fund a better public transport system to ensure its sustainability,” the two-term Kinrara assemblyman said.
According to Ng, due to the said factors, KL Sentral is the only true TOD concept in Malaysia which centralises all public transportation modes, especially railways, next to offices.
“Still, it is not easy to reach KL Sentral. Furthermore, TOD development also means an area where you can live, send children to school, socialise, for recreation and work, which I think KL Sentral is still lacking.
“We need to think of a concept where people do not have to commute far away in their daily life,” Ng said.
In Selangor, Ng said several local councils are drafting their town planning policy, among others, to continue encouraging TODs for the next 15 years.
Among others, the state will allow land plots nearby train stations to be developed with a maximum of 1:8 plot ratio to encourage high-rise building constructions in the areas.
Ng said the areas have already been gazetted, but the development will also depend on Selangor residents, whether they still prefer landed houses at the outskirts.
As of now, Ng noted that not a single area in Selangor has reached a successful TOD status.
To make this a success, in 2016 the state submitted the Selangor Transportation Master Plan to the federal government, comprising a complete network of public transportation systems worth RM64 billion for the 12th Malaysia Plan, spanning over the next five years.
It is an additional proposal on top of the existing light rail transit, mass rapid transit and additional cargo service lines by Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd, besides additional busses to ensure 60% of Selangor residents use public transport.
“This is among the improvements that must be made. A better network is the key for ridership to increase, and coupled with proper TODs, Selangor can have more sustainable townships that are vertical instead of horizontal and scattered,” Ng concluded.