Malaysia, Johor: Traders fume over 'disappointing' Sungai Segget rejuvenation project

Chuah Bee Kim New Straits Times 4 Aug 17;

JOHOR BARU: When will the brickbats turn into bouquets?

Shop operators and urban dwellers are waiting for Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) to deliver its promise of transforming Johor Baru into an iconic landmark through the Sungai Segget rejuvenation project.

The multi-million rehabilitation project was, after all, modelled after the successful Cheonggyecheon project in Seoul, South Korea.

Cheonggyecheon, a 10.9 km-long creek that flows from west to east through downtown Seoul, initially drew public criticism but its opening in 2005 awed both South Koreans and tourists.

The most recent attack against the Sungai Segget project came from Pulai Member of Parliament Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed, who highlighted the high consultation fee imposed on the project’s landscaping work in Jalan Wong Ah Fook here.

He said the rate normally charged by the local authorities for landscaping work did not exceed six per cent of a project’s entire development value.

Nur Jazlan reportedly said Irda, which was given the mandate to complete the project, had charged RM20 million in consultation fees for the landscaping work. The entire project is expected to cost RM57 million.

The New Straits Times spoke to local residents and traders, who expressed disappointment with the development so far.

“No need to talk about Cheonggyecheon... if the project can be like the Singapore River, we will be very happy and proud of it,” said a business operator who only wanted to be known as Lim.

Lim was referring to the island republic’s 3.2-km waterway, which is a popular recreation landmark.

“The pavement in front of shops were dug up and now they have covered it up again. Initially, they said river would be teeming with marine life and that there would be river cruises. When I first heard that, I was very hopeful.

“The fact that they have covered up part of the river again is going to deprive marine life of oxygen, even if they can successfully and miraculously rejuvenate the river in the future.

“At the moment, we are not seeing the promise coming to fruition,” said Lim, adding that project needed a “wow factor” if it was to dubbed the “Gem of Johor Baru City”.

Another business operator, K.C. Wong, said he did not mind the covered walkways as they would make it more convenient for customers to walk to his shop.

“How are my customers going to come to my shop if there’s no pavement?

“But, the amount of money spent to break the walkway and then covering it up again makes no sense to me.

“My business was affected when the construction was going on. So, in a way, I’m glad way that the project is completed,” Wong said.

He, however, questioned how boats would be able to traverse the narrow Sungai Segget.

“Were they talking about paper boats?” he quipped.

Irda chief executive Datuk Ismail Ibrahim reportedly said works on the surface had been completed, and it will be handed over to the Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) after the testing and commissioning stage is completed.

Ismail had said RM240 million had been spent on the project, which involved the rehabilitation and rejuvenation of the river along with the construction of an 11-storey centralised sewerage treatment plant (CSTP).

Meanwhile, Irda head of projects and programme management Mohd Zam Mustaman said the CSTP is expected to help improve the water quality of Sungai Segget.

He, however, said it could take up to a year before the target of improving the river’s water quality to Class IIB is achieved.

Class IIB means that the water is classified as suitable for body contact and recreational usage.

Sungai Segget is currently considered the second most polluted river in Malaysia and is classified as Class IV.

Mohd Zam said it is hoped the CSTP will improve Sungai Segget's water quality to Class IIB and enable aquatic life to thrive.

Mohd Zam said this would only materialise in six months to one year.

The CSTP, built at a cost of RM120 million, is

part of the Sungai Segget rehabilitation project and began operations in January.

The plant not only processes sewage but also river water from Sungai Segget’s upstream before releasing it downstream.

Mohd Zam also urged the public to play their part by abandoning their habit of throwing rubbish into the river.

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