MORE people have come out against the implementation of the RM300mil Phase 2 Sibu Town Square extension and beautification project involving the Lembangan River.
They have expressed grave concerns over a proposal by the authorities to cover the last 220m stretch of Lembangan River for single-storey lock-up shophouses.
They strongly supported a statement by a senior lawyer Joseph Tang on Wednesday for the Lembangan River to be preserved.
Former Sibu councillor Dr Hii Sui Cheng yesterday concurred with Tang that the authorities should capitalise on the uniqueness of Lembangan River.
“What they should do is to beautify it like what was done to Sungai Merah where the riverfront was transformed into an attractive heritage walk.”
The Phase 2 project involves the extension of the river frontage and expansion of the Town Square by the addition of a 500m by 8m riverfront promenade.
It also involves the building of a retaining wall along the reclaimed river frontage. A 2ha area will be reclaimed for the Town Square and 0.7ha alienated to the project developer.
Hii said, instead of covering the river, the authorities should dredge and clean it. They should also build retaining walls on both sides and transform it into an attractive riverfront.
“The other end of Lembangan River in the town centre has been covered up and turned into a pedestrian walk with beautiful plants. Here (the other end of the river at the Town Square area), the space is much bigger. I prefer it be developed like Sungai Merah,” he said.
Hii, however, preferred an improved version of the Sungai Merah riverfront and have sampans available for tourists to have a ride on the river.
He suggested that the remaining stretch of Lembangan River be turned into a tourist attraction similar to Malacca River where there were pavilions, benches and gardens with plenty of plants and flowers.
The water feature of Lembangan River should be optimised to make the area appealing, he added.
Meanwhile, a spokesman from a reputed property developer in Sibu who wished not to be named, said he would agree with Tang only if the river could be rehabilitated and its water treated.
“During low tide, the water is blackish and emanates a stench due to the discharge of waste from businesses in the town centre. I once jogged there and could not stand the smell,” he said.
If the water could not be treated, it was better to have it covered, he said.
Tang had said that the development plan incorporated a clubhouse protruding at least 30m into the narrow Igan rivermouth.
He claimed the clubhouse would make the river dangerous for navigation.
“It will also cause the riverbed to rise,” he said, adding that the clubhouse should be shelved.
On this, the spokesman opined that the location of the clubhouse could be a major issue as it might obstruct the flow of riverine traffic.
However, he was quick to add that, as of now, most people were not very clear about the project’s specifications, adding that it was difficult to say whether it would have any effect on the river’s ecology.
In view of this, he urged the authorities to be transparent about the project and not have it turned into a major issue.