Going with cultural heritage flow

This structure of the Bugis people's perahu penisi reflects Sungai Segget having been a hub for trade activities in 1890 where over 21,500 tonnes of gambier and 9,200 tonnes of black pepper were exported. - THOMAS YONG/The Star

AFTER close to a decade of rehabilitation and upgrading, Sungai Segget finally has a new look as a prominent icon in Johor Baru city centre.

The Sungai Segget Rejuvenation Programme was an initiative by the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) and stakeholders to improve the image and identity of downtown Johor Baru.

It kicked off in 2013 and was completed this year, with Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi unveiling the new look.

Its new look had additional structures and elements to reflect the state’s rich heritage and history.

Realising that a city needs to have “soul” to complement its hardware assets, Irda allocated a RM1mil grant to celebrate and preserve Johor Baru’s cultural diversity.

Named the “Downtown Johor Baru Grants Programme: Arts, Heritage and Culture”, it is aimed at attracting grassroots participation to ensure more sustainable, local social and economic development.

Irda chief executive officer Datuk Dr Badrul Hisham Kassim said with the completion of the river rejuvenation project, they would now have to look at creating content or software developments.

“This is not only to appeal to foreign tourists, but also the locals, to keep them coming back to the city,” he said.

He added that the grant was also meant to conserve and protect the various heritage assets and culture in the city to retain its local identity, in line with the state government and local authority’s aspirations.

The river rejuvenation programme was divided into three phases with the third phase, costing RM40mil, focusing on landscaping works, said Badrul Hisham.

Phase One, he said, involved RM123mil including the cost of the land for the centralised sewage treatment plant, while Phase Two focused on the construction of a sewerage and flood mitigation system at a cost of RM117mil.

Daniel Lim, the urban mechanics director for Think City which is an organisation set up to improve urban living, said the completion of the Sungai Segget rejuvenation project had put Johor Baru at a critical juncture to prepare for future developments.

“With projects such as the Ibrahim International Business District and Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link coming up, there is a need to build excitement, to let people know that Johor Baru is embarking on something greater.

“As the spine of the city, Sungai Segget plays a role by showing how public spaces can join the two parts of the city – old and new – together,” he said, adding that it could bring together people of various backgrounds to enjoy the physical space.

Lim said the grant programme provided opportunities for local communities to participate in creating vibrant, inclusive and thriving spaces in the city that knitted together Johor Baru’s historical fabric while enhancing its liveability and visitor appeal.

It was also aimed at empowering the community to take charge and facilitate them in realising their ideas for a better city, he said.

“The responsibility of making a city work does not lay with just authoritative bodies such as Irda and Johor Baru City Council (MBJB), but also through everyone’s participation whether it is the multiple stakeholders or community.

“The grant programme is to promote culture and heritage and see how we can use these elements as a tool to rejuvenate the city, which is our primary objective,” he added.

Lim encouraged people to approach Think City with their ideas so that the organisation could explore it via the grant programme.

“We can still find other ways to realise an idea if not through the grant. All ideas are welcome,” he said.

Think City held several public engagement sessions to promote the grant programme, including at Infinity8 in Komtar JBCC last week.

The grant programme is open to individuals, collectives and organisations nationwide that are interested in or actively contributing to the rejuvenation efforts of downtown Johor Baru.

The total amount allocated for the grant programme is RM1mil but the amount provided for each grant would be considered on a case-by-case basis to a maximum sum of RM50,000.

Lim said the proposed project should be sustainable, benefit the local art, heritage or cultural scene of downtown Johor Baru as well as make a positive impact on the area.

The grant submission period is ongoing and ends on July 25, while the announcement of successful recipients is set for Sept 6.

For queries or submission details, visit thinkcity.com.my/downtownjb/

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