PETALING Jaya (PJ) is a beautiful place to live in with its greenery and fairly balanced development.
Schools, places of worship and many amenities are a stone’s throw for me. I also work in PJ and my children go to a school near my home.
My neighbours comprise senior citizens and middle-aged professionals who are very active and vocal.
They have served the country or are actively involved in shaping the nation. Many have worked hard and invested in properties in the city.
The city’s economy is also supported by many small and medium entrepreneurs who operate from business premises located in PJ.
Many youths have been coming to PJ from around the country to further their studies at higher education institutions.
Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) has been promoting a low-carbon agenda through various initiatives.
However, for over a decade, I have been hearing about the plan for an elevated expressway that will cut through PJ –contrary to the city and state’s sustainable development policies.
Initially, there was the Kidex highway and the project generated protests from residents.
It was cancelled in February 2015 due to technical reasons by then Selangor mentri besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.
Not long after, we came to hear about the Petaling Jaya Dispersal Link (PJD Link) which appears to be a replacement for the cancelled Kidex. It also drew strong protests from residents who feared the disruption it would bring, including pollution.
On July 31, caretaker Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari released a press statement saying that PJD Link had not met the requirements, especially its less than satisfactory social impact assessment, and as a consequence, the project was cancelled.
PJ folk, including me, rejoiced at the announcement but our jubilation was short-lived.
Within 24 hours, it was reported that Amirudin said if the concessionaire could fulfil conditions set by the state and appease the people, Selangor would allow the project to continue.
A couple of days later, he denied that he had flip-flopped, adding PJD Link was not the state’s project but under the Federal Government.
“If PJD Link authorities feel they are victims of the decision of the government (cancellation) and they can give a better (proposal) ... we will go through the process again which will have to include the environmental, social and traffic impact assessments.”
Constructing an elevated expressway over existing roads throughout mature neighbourhoods is not as simple as assembling Lego pieces.
It will take years of construction. This will cause major inconvenience and pose a considerable risk to existing and future residents before, during and even after the expressway is built.
In short, it would adversely change our landscape and environment forever, especially given how previous highway constructions have resulted in thousands of trees being felled.
Assuming the expressway is built after all, my family and I will be living even closer to the noise, dust and exhaust fumes, in addition to what we are already experiencing from the Federal Highway.
With the state elections on Aug 12, the project is again the talk of the town.
Over the years, the highway plan has been presented to three mentri besar.
Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman had said a multi-billion ringgit development project must not be dependent only on the state Economic Planning Unit and the Mentri Besar’s approval.
He said an expressway of this magnitude must be approved by councillors elected through local council elections and the issue must be debated and voted at the state assembly sitting to ensure there are checks and balances.
I feel the voices of PJ residents affected by new expressways or projects are only heard by politicians during elections which happen once every five years.
Politicians tend to make populist statements about such projects during elections but it will take a lot more to convince the population of PJ that PJD Link has been cancelled, once and for all.
As a journalist, I can attest that PJ residents are a vocal group who back their points with extensive research when they appear at hearings, townhall sessions and group discussions.
Both Kidex and PJD Link projects have led to great insecurity among PJ residents and stakeholders for over a decade.
It’s a project that has hit too close to home and they want to see an end to it without any possibility of revival years later.
Instead of the expressway, PJ residents want improved public transportation and better first-and-last-mile connectivity which will benefit a larger population and reduce the carbon footprint.
They want better amenities for walking and cycling, too.
The use of escooters for short-distance travel is gaining popularity in PJ and I urge the authorities to promote this.
We can no longer ignore the impact of climate change stemming from environmental destruction.
The construction of a massive elevated expressway like PJD Link will cause irreparable environmental damage to our beloved city.
Similarly, we cannot ignore the number of fatalities on elevated expressways.
A mega highway project through PJ will put lives at risk in many ways.
It is time the federal and state governments, as well as the city council, prioritise the well-being of PJ residents and the environment.
They would be acting according to their sustainable development policies by cancelling the expressway project permanently.