FOR Petaling Jaya mayor Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain, future challenges for the city council, which changed its status from municipality to city 10 years ago on this day, include urban redevelopment and waste management issues, not to mention increasing public transport around the city.
With an area of 97.2sq km, Petaling Jaya is pretty much the smallest of the 12 local government authorities in Selangor, yet it is the most densely populated city in the state.
The census taken in 2010 recorded a population of 658,511. The number had probably reached one million by now, said Azizi.
Unsurprisingly, this high population density combined with scarcity of land, makes urban regeneration a challenge in Petaling Jaya.
However, Azizi said MBPJ was looking at Section 13’s future transformation as a possible way forward.
The Special Area Plan for the industrial area of Section 13, for example, is the city council’s foray into urban redevelopment with a focus on pedestrian interconnectivity throughout until the Asia Jaya LRT station.
Council Urban Planning director Sharipah Marhaini Syed Ali said the recent focus group session organised by the city council at Civic Centre had collated feedback and views on the proposed guidelines.
“The draft guidelines should be tabled in the Infrastructure Committee’s July meeting,” said Sharipah.
Following this, the council also plans to draw up similar planning guidelines for the industrial areas of Section 51, 51A and Section 19.
“We are planning for all three city sections to undergo the same process simultaneously,” said Sharipah, adding that the city council had also studied examples from Melbourne and Perth in Australia on rejuvenating older industrial areas.
“The longer process is actually engaging with local stakeholders and we estimate the guidelines drafting process for these three sections to take about two years” said Sharipah.
Traffic itself is another issue, such as the one-way loop which a lot of residents and stakeholders had expressed their dissatisfaction with regards to safety, inconvenience and slow progress.
Acknowledging the public’s anger and causes such as poor workmanship by contractors and simultaneous upgrading projects from utility and sewerage, Azizi said the target completion date was still Aug 31.
“We are still on course for Aug 31, as we too would like to complete this project and begin auditing road usage and other statistics to better help the traffic dispersal situation,” Azizi added.
The council’s most solid effort in alleviating the traffic situation so far has been its introduction of the free PJ City Bus service in 2014 by Azizi’s predecessor, Datin Paduka Alinah Ahmad.
Now covering four routes from PJS 3 until University Malaya Medical Centre, Kampung Tunku, SS3, SS4 and SS5 as well, Azizi said the council was looking to expand to more housing and commercial areas and increase the fleet as well.
Other steps to increase public transport take-up and lower the number of vehicles on the road include the construction of Park’n’Ride parking lots under electric pylons at LRT stations in the city.
Meanwhile, the city will also be signing memorandums of understanding (MoU) with two new cities – Qingyuan in Guangdong Province, China and Seongbok-Gu, South Korea today.
Taking the South Korean city of Asan as an example, which MBPJ recently signed an MoU last year, Azizi said the purpose of such collaborations was to learn each others’ best practices.
“Waste separation and lowering our waste output is something we are interested in, where Asan only generates about 100 tonnes of waste a day, Petaling Jaya churns out 600 tonnes daily,” said Azizi.
This is about to change, he said, with the council’s new policy from Sep 1 to ban polystyrene as a food container in the city, while more efforts would be made to educate residents on waste separation and reusable/recyclable items.
MCA veteran Datuk Dr Wong Sai Hou, who served as both municipal and city councillor until 2008, recalls being excited about Petaling Jaya’s upgrade in 2006 although since then, there are many facets which could be improved on.
Things such as waste separation, Local Agenda 21 and the full-achievement of a barrier-free city, were moving too slowly, the former assemblyman and councillor said.
“Where other countries are doing away with plastic and polysterene, renewables and organic waste should be made more stringent in Petaling Jaya,” he said.
Eileen Thong, SS20 Rukun Tetangga chairman, who had stayed in Damansara Kim for 40 years, recalls doing community work with the then-municipal council.
“I even saw the staff grow, I have seen them get married, get promoted and generally grow with municipal council until it became MBPJ,” said Thong.
“However, I feel that the city has become ‘overdeveloped’, and perhaps we should ‘grow slow’, ” she said.
Friends of Kota Damansara chairman Jeffrey Phang urged for greater transparency from the council.
“Prompt provision of information can promote transparency, and we want true public participation, not just for ad hoc issues, but structural ones such as the council’s budget, this is definitely a major issue,” said Phang.
For Rukun Tetangga Section 22 chairman Rajendran Govindasamy, the pace of development is too fast, and there could be more room for improvement for transportation and waste management.
“At the same time, we could also do better with more residents’ participation, and the council should also improve its procurement procedures,” said Rajendran.