Land alienation approved without objections

Sandbags are placed along Sungai Batu in Kampung Kasipillay in Jalan Ipoh as part of DBKL's flood mitigation measure in 2022. - Filepic

 CLOSE on the heels of the fiasco surrounding the attempt to alienate Bohol flood retention pond in Kuala Lumpur (now aborted), comes new allegations that another water body in the city is in danger of being developed.

The Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur Land and Mines Office (PTGWP) has confirmed to StarMetro that a portion of the Batu retention pond off Jalan Kuching has been alienated for a mixed development project.

Stakeholders in the area, including the MPs, have been caught off guard.

They say they were unaware that a public hearing to degazette the pond had been carried out in 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. (See accompanying story.)PTGWP insists that the process to degazette the 14.973ha plot of land was carried out properly, including holding an objection hearing over two consecutive days in November 2020.

However, it said no one turned up for the hearing.

ALSO READ : ‘15 flood retention ponds in KL not gazetted’

The Batu pond is the largest flood retention pond in Kuala Lumpur, spanning 134.59ha or the equivalent of 188 football fields.

The alienated portion is 14.973ha or equivalent to 21 football fields.

Optimising land usage

The alienated land is part of Lot 65422, which is for recreational use and gazetted for that purpose on April 18, 2016.

The land is owned by Federal Territories Department (previously Federal Territories ministry) and borders the Kepong and Batu parliamentary constituencies.

In order for the land to be developed, it must be degazetted.

ALSO READ : Not on my watch, says former DID chief

In a statement to StarMetro, PTGWP said it issued a notice to degazette the land on Oct 30, 2020.

It added that in November that year, stakeholders were informed about the degazettement notice and the proposed project.

“The approval for the alienation of parts of Lot 65422 was granted by the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur Land Exco (JKTWPKL) on Aug 5.

“Subsequently, a notice regarding the degazettement for the proposed project was posted at the pond site on Nov 4, 2020,” the statement read.

ALSO READ : ‘Don’t reduce capacity of retention pond in KL’

According to the land office, the notice stated that the objection period was from Nov 16 to 17, 2020.

“Stakeholders living in and around the Batu retention pond area had two days to voice their objections over the proposal to revoke the status of the land for recreational use.

“However, no one turned up on both days,” said the land office in a statement to StarMetro.

It should be noted that the public hearing dates were scheduled when the government imposed the conditional movement control order nationwide due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The land office added that the degazettement of the Batu flood retention pond land was to accommodate a mixed development project that would also include affordable housing.

According to PTGWP, the proposed project would involve a premium Residensi Wilayah housing scheme, Residensi Wilayah affordable scheme, residential units at market prices and a hawker centre.

Created for flood mitigation

The Batu retention pond was constructed as a flood mitigation pond in 2008 and was part of the overall Kuala Lumpur Flood Mitigation Plan, which cost RM800mil.

ALSO READ : Bohol land deal scrapped

The plan involved the construction of the RM19.7mil Batu dam, canals, the RM20mil Sungai Batu retention pond and the deepening of Sungai Klang, Sungai Gombak and Sungai Batu, including a RM120mil drainage project as well as improvement works on eight tributaries.

According to PTGWP the alienation was approved to optimise land usage and spur the economy.

“On Oct 22, 2021, JKTWPKL (Kuala Lumpur Land Exco) approved the alienation as long as 15 additional conditions that were submitted by Kuala Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) for the alienation process to proceed were fulfilled.

“Hence, the decision to alienate the land for development was approved.

“We will ensure that the alienated portion is monitored closely and the pond’s function as a flood retention pond is maintained regularly,” said PTGWP in the statement.

It is learnt that the additional conditions included a mandatory 50m setback or buffer between the edge of the pond and the development.

ALSO READ: ‘Safety should supersede profit at retention ponds’

Sources close to the matter said that the developer had paid a premium of RM59,249,744 for the land on Feb 16, 2021, and the registration of the title deed was done on June 10, 2022.

Meanwhile, the PTGWP clarified that out of the 15 main flood retention ponds (see graphic) in Kuala Lumpur, seven are gazetted, namely Kampung Benteng, Taman Sri Segambut, Kampung Puah, Flat Sri Johor, Boyan, Taman Desa and Kampung Bohol.

Five ponds are in the process of being gazetted: Nanyang, Kampung Delima, Taman Wahyu, Batu 4 ½ and Batu.

For Batu, the remaining 99.435ha will be regazetted as flood retention pond and open space for recreation once the transfer of ownership is completed.

For the Midah pond, the land office said it was waiting for Kuala Lumpur DID to submit the application to gazette the pond, while applications for the Setapak Jaya pond (which comes under Kuala Lumpur City Hall) and Kampung Berembang (under Selangor government) are still pending from the landowners.

Clearer picture needed

Though they play a key role in flood mitigation in the city, land around retention ponds is considered prime property and highly sought-after by developers.

The Batu pond is one of six in Kuala Lumpur that were approved for development, according to the Auditor-General’s Report 2019 Series 2.

However, following the December 2021 floods, several Kuala Lumpur MPs called on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the police to investigate possible abuse of power over approval for development of these retention ponds.

Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil, Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh and Cheras MP Tan Kok Wai lodged reports on Jan 1, 2022, at the Sentul police station.

The six retention ponds in question were Batu, Nanyang, Delima, Wahyu, Batu 4½ and Taman Desa.

Based on the A-G’s report, the pond land had been approved for transfer of ownership by PTGWP to four companies for residential and mixed development.

The MPs had called on the authorities to investigate the parties involved.

On March 16 last year, then deputy Federal Territories minister Datuk Seri Jalaluddin Alias clarified in Parliament that of the six ponds, only Taman Wahyu and Delima in Kepong were approved for development.

But those were not the only ponds being eyed for development.

Last month, the government cancelled the proposed alienation of land surrounding the Bohol flood retention pond in Seputeh to a private developer, following the company’s failure to fulfil key technical requirements.

This followed StarMetro reports that the land near Bohol pond had been proposed to be alienated with the approval of JKTWPKL.

The proposal was earlier approved despite objections from various government agencies which had said that alienating land surrounding flood retention ponds for development was a recipe for disaster.

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