By Karen Bong and Chris Bishop
KUCHING, Jan 5: The RM9.8 million makeover for the abandoned Ang Cheng Ho quarry overlooking a 20-acre natural lake with a new sports and community hall with innovation hub has taken off.
Minister of Local Government and Housing Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian revealed that the new facility sitting on a four-acres site and expected to be completed in 15 months will bring new life to Batu Kawah as the place to gather, to play and to realise one’s potential.
“This groundbreaking marks the beginning of the transformation of a discarded old Ang Cheng Ho quarry which some said was an eye sore but I called it the last undiscovered jewel in Kuching.
“It will be a people-centric recreational park which will be another major landmark for Kuching,” he highlighted at the groundbreaking ceremony officiated by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg at the site near Jalan Datuk Stephen Yong here today.
The project which received additional RM5 million funding today will feature a multipurpose sports and community hall that can accommodate 1,000 people and can be utilised as basketball court and badminton court as well as a modern banquet hall for recreational, entertainment and other events.
There will also be approximately 3,000 square-feet of office space to serve as an innovation hub for young entrepreneurs and to empower startups and social enterprises.
“For the first time, there will be a multipurpose hall which can accommodate 1,000 people for events, be it social or sports and an innovative hub for new young entrepreneurs,” he added.
Dr Sim who is also the Batu Kawah assemblyman, emphasised that the constituency is made up of large semi-urban areas with booming commercial areas on one side of the river and semi-rural areas on the other side.
“It has a huge potential for agriculture to contribute to the food basket of Kuching.
“I am very proud that my multi-racial constituency of Malay, Chinese, Dayak and Indian living in peace and harmony and respect each other. Even the Malay here can speak good Hakka (a Chinese dialect) but unfortunately it is a language I have yet to master,” he shared.
On the progress of Batu Kawah since receiving the mandate of the people in 2016, Dr Sim who is also Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) president, pointed out that the area has grown rapidly and tremendously with the support from Abang Johari and the Sarawak government.
“Phase 1 and 2 of the Batu Kawah Riverside Park are near completion while Phase 4 funded by Peninsular Malaysia will be retendered this week after funding was withdrawn by the former PH (Pakatan Harapan) government.
“There are no longer dark areas in Batu Kawa as thousands of streetlights had been installed while many village roads have been upgraded and tar-sealed within three-months instead of 22-months.
“Following the flood mitigation and drainage upgrade, I am happy to share that there is hardly any flooding since 2016 as this area used to be flooded this time of the year,” he said.
These efforts, Dr Sim continued, were testimony that Abang Johari is a leader for all races – the Malay, Chinese, Dayak and Indian.
Now with so much development, he informed that Batu Kawah today faced new issues namely traffic jams and the need for more affordable housing.
“Despite smart traffic lights installed and Stephen Yong link road, we need help with upgrading roads and to build new roads. Perhaps, an ART (Autonomous Rail Transit) can be planned here as this area is heavily populated.
“We also need more affordable housing like Spektra Permata so that the second generation in the SPS, RPR and Taman Desa Wira areas can continue to live near to their parents and the grandparents and grandchildren can be close to each other to enhance the family institutions,” he explained.
Land prices in Batu Kawah, Dr Sim added, have doubled since 2016 and many younger generations cannot afford to buy expensive properties.
State Secretary Datuk Amar Jaul Samion and Padawan Municipal Council (MPP) chairman Lo Khere Chiang were among those present. — DayakDaily