THREE times a week, without fail, Alicia Wong runs at a little park close to where she lives in Taman Desa, Kuala Lumpur.
This has been her routine on and off for the last five years, ever since she bought her Abadi Ria apartment in this quiet enclave off Old Klang Road. But this is about to change. At least 10 high-rise residential projects in this area have been approved by the local authorities and Alicia’s little park is one of the green spaces earmarked for development.
“I got the shock of my life when my resident’s association representative showed me the development plans.
“I bought my home in Taman Desa because of its strategic location but more importantly, it was a peaceful and quiet residential area that was still fairly green – there were parks and trees.
“But City Hall’s decision to approve these 10 monstrous projects without consulting residents of Taman Desa is shocking,” she told me.
Alicia and her fellow residents are not giving up without a fight. The RA has already received leave to file a judicial review against City Hall (DBKL) and they intend to pursue their case until all legal recourse is exhausted.
More than 30,000 people live in Taman Desa and their predicament echoes that of the Taman Tun Dr Ismail residents.
They too have filed an application for a judicial review against a massive development project near Taman Rimba Kiara.
The Taman Tun RA has criticised DBKL for ignoring the collective protests of its residents about the project’s long-term social and environmental impact on the township. The eight-tower project will increase the current plot ratio of 1:60 to a whopping 1:979.
As City Hall faces multiple legal challenges from the residents, one has to ask the question: why is the local authority adamant in pursuing its development plans despite concerted opposition?
The answer is probably in an interview Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Mohd Amin Nordin gave to StarMetro last year.
“The city needs to have developments to spur the economy and we cannot turn down a landowner’s right to develop his or her land. What we can do is control the plot ratio,” he said.
“If a project is near an LRT station or public facilities then we will consider allowing a higher plot ratio, but that also depends on the results of their traffic impact assessment studies.”
While the mayor has a point, the local authority must also take into consideration the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study and the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) report before a development order can be issued.
And in both Taman Tun and Taman Desa, residents are convinced that the EIA and SIA reports will show that large-scale development projects in these already mature and established areas are unsustainable.
Taman Desa Phase One RA committee member M. Gunasekar said the proposed high-rise projects in the area would be built on public-use land, green lungs and even TNB reserve land.
“This involves the conversion of even the tiniest bit of land that has already been gazetted for public facilities,” he said.
“The proposed high-density, high-rise buildings are all no less than 30 storeys in height and will increase the population density in our neighbourhood by five-fold.
“City Hall has totally ignored residents’ protests and has refused to provide feedback to our queries.
“What Taman Desa needs now is better infrastructure, not more high-rises, and these projects will not only affect the residents but will also have a serious impact on the Salak Expressway and especially Jalan Kelang Lama (Old Klang Road).
“Once these projects are completed in a few years, the additional traffic and influx of people will put a strain on the roads and facilities in Taman Desa that currently service 8,000 households,” Gunasekar said, adding that three of these projects had already started and were in various stages of construction.
Committee member of the Save Taman Rimba Kiara group Khairudin Rahim said that the proposed eight-tower development, adjacent to Taman Tun’s popular park, would result in an influx of more than 10,000 people.
“This is going to put an incredible strain on the infrastructure and traffic dispersal in the area. But City Hall’s answer to this is to make Jalan Datuk Sulaiman a six-lane highway connecting to Jalan Damansara,” he said, adding that this would result in the removal of all the trees along this trunk road.
Khairudin said that planning permission and a development order had already been given by City Hall, but the residents intended to fight this, starting with a judicial review on Nov 15. Both neighbourhoods have also sought to engage the authorities but to no avail.
In Taman Tun’s case however, the Federal Territories Minister, his deputy and the mayor have agreed to meet and hold a dialogue with the residents tonight.
The ‘Bicara Rakyat’ session with the FT Minister and his team will take place at 8pm today at Taman Tun’s community centre at Jalan Athinahapan.