FROM a humble beginning of just two rows of wooden shophouses, the Sungai Merah Bazaar in Sibu is poised for intensive development in the coming years.
Over the years, the bazaar — historically known as the place where the founder of Sibu, the late Wong Nai Siong, first set foot in Sarawak in 1901 — has undergone rapid transformation.
This is evident from the big increase in traffic volume, soaring population and mushrooming of industrial and residential properties.
It started two years ago with the demolition of the old wooden shophouses to make way for more modern, concrete shophouses.
The construction and completion of the new shophouses were said to have sparked a renaissance for Sungai Merah, which is also popularly known as “Heng Hua Pa” or Heng Hua settlement among the locals.
Politically, the bazaar and its surrounding areas come under the Pelawan state constituency.
Following the redevelopment of the town centre, more and more new shophouses are springing up in the area. Some have been completed while many more are in the pipeline.
Pelawan assemblyman Vincent Goh told StarMetro that this was just the beginning of more to come for Sungai Merah.
He noted that the increasing volume of traffic and the population were very good signs as far as the development of Sungai Merah was concerned.
To a question, Goh projected that the number of residential, industrial and commercial properties, including those along Jalan Ding Lik Kuong, Jalan Teku and Rantau Panjang, would double to more than 2,000 units in three years’ time.
However, he noted that traffic congestion would be one of the most pressing problems in the future.
Immediate measures, he said, were needed to upgrade and widen the roads, which were mostly single-lane, into dual carriageways.
“Presently, you can already see the big volume of vehicles, which include trailers, prime movers and heavy trucks, not to mention passenger vehicles, travelling up and down the area. The congestion can be felt especially during peak hours when people are already complaining of bumper-to-bumper traffic,” he said.
He expected the traffic to become more congested in the next two years following the completion of the Tanjung Manis Road and the two bridges linking it to the town, coupled with the heavy industries starting operations.
Goh said to help ease traffic flow and accommodate the larger traffic volume, the main roads and the town bridge in Sungai Merah also needed to be upgraded into two-lane passageways. The road and the old town bridge were built in the early 1960s.
He said aggressive efforts were being taken to upgrade the road networks within the bazaar area.
He noted that a RM20mil allocation had also been approved to widen the old Airport Road and Kuong Ann Road from the existing single lane into a dual carriageway. The project is expected to begin early next year.
A proper drainage system along Jalan Ding Lik Kuong was in the pipeline, too, he said.
Besides being an attractive site for industrial development, Goh said Sungai Merah, which was rich in history, was also a potential area for tourism development.
The development of the Sungai Merah Heritage Walk five years ago not only helped to beautify the bazaar but also turned it into a unique tourist attraction in Sibu.