WITH its close proximity to the Kuala Lumpur city centre, Setapak has become prime real estate over the past several years.
However, what was once a bustling and an upcoming suburb with a rich history is slowly deteriorating because issues such as lack of cleanliness, escalating crime and half-baked planning has not been resolved.
Setapak could have gotten its name from the Bahasa Malaysia word that means “one step” according to the KL Tourist Guidebook, but a more plausible tale behind the name would be the appointment of a local aborigine, Batu Tapak, as the headman of the area in 1884 by the then British Resident of Selangor, Sir Frank Swettenham.
Setapak was an area that contributed to the heyday of the tin mining and rubber industries in Malaya. The legacy of this contribution is obvious in the old settlements along Jalan Gombak and the still-standing Lian Hin Rubber Smokehouse and Lee Rubber Warehouse.
The informative and interactive Royal Selangor Visitor Centre reminds visitors of the tin industry’s glorious past.
Long-time resident Padma Subramaniam, 56, said there was a need for a holistic planning for future developments in the area.
“It is inevitable that development will continue in Setapak, but all the plans must be friendly to residents, well planned and sustainable.
“Being one of the oldest townships in Kuala Lumpur, residents are in dire need of relevant infrastructure,” she said.
She said the roads and drainage should be upgraded as it was more than 20 years old.
“With the increase in population size, the infrastructure was not built to cope with the stress. Many of the roads are narrow and the drains are always clogged,” she said.
Taman Setapak Permai resident Abdul Halim Mohd Razlan, 35, pointed out that the rundown IKS Setapak was an eyesore.
“Remnants of several units of workshops that had been demolished and abandoned cars around the area is very unsightly. The authorities should look into this,” he said.
Setiawangsa MP Datuk Ahmad Fauzi Zahari said with 100,000 people in Setapak Jaya alone, it was a challenge to tackle the various issues there.
“We have the second highest number of People’s Housing Projects (PPR) and Public Housing Units (PPA) in Kuala Lumpur after Bandar Tun Razak. With some 8,000 units, there is a high concentration of people for a small area.
“The most pressing issue is the burgeoning development projects in the area.
“There are already six proposed housing projects totalling about 15,000 units in Setiawangsa planned for the next five years. Of these, we estimate 5,000 units to be built in the Setapak area,” he said, adding that this was bound to compound to the existing issues such as traffic, cleanliness and lack of infrastructure.
Ahmad Fauzi said Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) should consult with stakeholders in the area before approving any development projects.
“The residents and business owners are the ones that will be directly affected by any major projects and it is only right that they be informed beforehand. At the very least, the MP of the area should be consulted beforehand and not merely informed after the project is approved,” he said.
He cited the ongoing development of the RM100mil sports complex along Jalan Ayer Jerneh, Setapak as an example.
The yet to be named complex, will include a swimming pool, boxing arena, rock climbing area, a futsal centre as well as a library, to cater to about 15,000 people.
About 1,200 condominium units are also expected to be built on the 11.2ha site.
“Although I am told that Jalan Ayer Jerneh is to be widened, this may not be enough to support the additional traffic. The roads here are old and narrow and even road-widening works will be difficult as there is very little reserved land available,” he said.
Ahmad Fauzi also pointed out that the influx of people in the area for the past 20 years was putting a strain on the limited infrastructure.
“During the construction of the Kelana Jaya Line in 1994, residents from several villages and squatters who were displaced by the project were transferred to PPRs here.
“The sudden increase took a toll on the existing infrastructure which has still gone unresolved.
“Issues such as inadequate drainage and lack of public transportation are major problems that have yet to be addressed,” he said.
On the crime rate in Setapak, acting Wangsa Maju OCPD Deputy Supt A. Asmadi Abdul Aziz said there was a need for more community involvement to help curb crime.
“Although there has been a 12.5% decrease in the crime index between 2013 and 2014, criminal activities concerning narcotics and break-ins are still rampant.
“With only about 100 police personnel operating at the Setapak police station, there is a lack of sufficient officers to constantly monitor the area. This is where involvement from the public is valuable,” he said.
DSP Asmadi said there were several key actions taking place including the “Stop and Talk” programme and the Motorcycle Patrol Unit (URB) with 17 personnel.
“For now, we are working closely with the newly established Crime Prevention and Community Safety Department (JPJKK) to conduct engagement programmes with residents.
“Everyone in the community should be roped in to lend a helping hand. A more focused set-up will take away the burden from the police department as we cannot be everywhere all the time,” he said.