FIRST it was pollution woes caused by silt and sedimentation originating from illegal land clearing activity upstream of Sungai Gombak, which turned the river and its tributaries into a brown sludge.
Then there was the issue of vandalism and theft of public property in the heritage quarters that saddled Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) with a RM1mil bill!
Now comes allegations of two hydraulic projects called collapsible weirs, installed for the river beautification under the government’s River of Life (RoL) project, that are literally in shambles.
Sources from the RoL task force told StarMetro that the projects under the Kuala Lumpur Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID), costing a whopping RM35mil, were in limbo as the weirs had been out of commission for months.
In fact, one of the weirs failed to take off from the start.
“DID has been having a headache with the weirs as the contractors were unable to complete the project initially.
“And when they finally finished the job, it failed to work,” the source said, adding that the system was jammed with sand and sedimentation from the river.
The two collapsible weirs are built across Sungai Klang.
One is located in the Daya Bumi Complex area near Central Market, and the other in Brickfields near La Salle school facing the river.
Venetian dream muddied
To understand the function of the collapsible weirs, one must first appreciate the RoL project.
Part of the RoL involves land development or – more accurately – commercialising the riverfront in the old part of the capital city.
It involves rejuvenating a 2.2km stretch of Sungai Gombak.
The main thrust of the project is to develop the land banks along the riverside and rejuvenate the area into a liveable place.
Once the project is completed, these land banks will fetch a hefty sum and help the Government recoup money that was spent on cleaning up and beautifying the rivers and the surrounding areas.
A part of that idea was to introduce the services of gondolas or water taxis as a tourism offering.
As such, RoL developer Ekovest Bhd was working to transform the 2.2km stretch into a riverfront esplanade.
The waterfront project also planned for Sungai Gombak to be utilised as a thoroughfare for people to take a leisurely cruise on boats, disembark along the way to enjoy the cafes and restaurants on scheduled stops and experience the local culture.
The cruise was supposed to start from the Pekeliling area right up to Masjid Jamek, and plans in the pipeline were to include the entire RoL stretch right up to Mid Valley City.
Weirs in shambles
The weirs on Sungai Klang were meant to raise the river levels for boating activities.
They are built to be collapsible and has two functions. First is not to impede the flow of the river during floods, and secondly to raise the water level on the upstream side and make the river wider upstream to allow for recreational boating.
The higher water level allows the concrete banks of the river berm to be submerged, making for better aesthetics.
“During the launch of Phase I on Aug 28, 2017, the weir at Daya Bumi was not working, hence it had to be raised manually using sand bags,” the source revealed.
“It was very important that it worked as it was crucial for the Blue Pool and the dancing symphony fountain that were part of the attractions at the confluence of Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang.
StarMetro visited the site of both the weirs recently and discovered that the one in Daya Bumi had been removed completely. All that is left is a steel plate submerged in water, an evidence that it was there once.
The weir in Brickfields seemed to be still under construction.
When StarMetro first reported on the issue in 2017, the then DID deputy director-general 1 Datuk Mohd Nasir Mohd Noh said the weir projects were delayed several times but assured during the interview two years ago that the Daya Bumi weir would be completed in another two weeks and that the Brickfields weir would be ready by October 2017.
Mohd Nasir said the project was delayed due to various factors but the Government was committed to seeing it through.
Kuala Lumpur DID director Nishad Mohamed C.J. Mohd Shaffy confirmed there were problems with the contractors (building the weirs) and the department was terminating one of the contracts.
“We are in the process of terminating the contract for the Brickfields weir. Rest assured, we are taking action,” he said.
When asked how the companies managed to get the contract, Nishad said: “They have done the job, but there are problems of dislodgement with the gates caused by sand.
“It was an open tender, and it was all done before my time. But do not worry, we are taking action,” he reiterated.
The RoL project is divided into three components – river cleaning (to clean the 110km Sungai Klang stretch), river beautification (a 10.7km stretch) along the Klang and Gombak river corridors (11 precincts) from Titiwangsa to Brickfields near Mid Valley City, and land development adjoining the riverfront.