By Geryl Ogilvy
KUCHING, Oct 17: Elevating Kuching to the next phase of development poses a challenge that the government needs to address immediately, as existing infrastructure has reached the maximum level.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the government was re-strategising its public transportation system, with the bus rapid transit and light rail transit system very much in the planning.
The state is keen on introducing both systems to solve existing traffic problems, although still considered relatively minor.
“We are now coming to the limits of city development as presented by existing infrastructure of Kuching city. The existing public transport system consisting of buses, taxis and private cars is beginning to create regular traffic jams at particular junctions, and at times a situation that is stressful because we are not used to traffic jams of any form here,” he said when opening the 8th Alliance for Healthy City Global Conference and General Assembly here today.
World Health Organisation, Asia Pacific regional director Dr Shin Young-Soo and the Alliance for Healthy Cities steering committee chairperson Scarlett Pong were present at the event held at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) from Oct 17-20.
Abang Johari said a good public transportation system would allow efficient connectivity of integrated wholesome townships. Each township would be self-contained and provide proper housing for ordinary people, made affordable with the support of good jobs and business opportunities to achieve a good standard of living.
“As we plan for the future, the question of economics always comes in. The role of a good government is always to make good investments today to ensure economic growth in the future so that ordinary people can pursue a healthy and happy life.
“There are business models that we can look at to ensure the economic viability of projects. One is to take advantage of the rise in asset value in the surrounding areas of the new public transport system. The benefit from the rise in asset value should offset some, if not all, the cost of construction of the public transportation system,” he continued.
While the government looked at satellite township and outskirt housing to ease population density at the city centre, the chief minister said it was not for the government to balance the property market. Market forces should bring about adjustments to supply and demand as well as prices.
He suggested developers develop their land according to commercial considerations, as property speculation would only push the prices higher.
Touching on information technology’s impact on city health, Abang Johari highlighted the need to have balanced telecommunications and information sharing to make daily lives more efficient but less stressful and without having to worry about dealing with unnecessary information load or data breach.
He added that city councils were trying to improve efficiency through the automation of basic amenities. The concept of smart cities would also deal with the integration of economic activities with the natural environment and cultural activities.
“The challenge for all of us is to build successful and healthy cities. In Sarawak, we are embarking on this journey. While the journey is not easy because there is too much politicking, the path ahead is clear.
“We have to find ways and means to overcome obstacles and politics, and get into the business of healthy living,” Abang Johari said. — DayakDaily