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Be glad of the rehabilitated Sungai Segget

The once stinky Sungai Segget of johor Baru can now be as beautiful as the Cheonggyecheon stream of Seoul.

The once stinky Sungai Segget of johor Baru can now be as beautiful as the Cheonggyecheon stream of Seoul.

Shahrum Sayuthi
Written by Shahrum Sayuthi

JOHOR DAP chairman Liew Chin Tong on Tuesday was quick to blame the Barisan Nasional government for the flash flood in Johor Baru that day.

He pointed to the Sungai Segget rejuvenation project as the cause of the flood and demanded for the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) which manages it to be sacked.

Liew, who is the Kluang member of parliament did not bother to ask or wait for a proper explaination for the flood from the authorities before launching his tirade.

A similar, but less emotional complaint on the matter by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed whose Pulai constituency was directly affected by the flood failed to dissuade Liew that the issue was not political in nature.

“Barisan Nasional is responsible in running the federal government, Irda, Johor government and MBJB (JB City Hall). In other words, left hand and right hand are all from the same government.

“So, there should be a limit to left hand blaming right hand. Someone must say ‘the buck stops here’ and make an immediate and firm decision. That person is the Menteri Besar of Johor,” Liew said.

From his comments, Liew appeared to blame everything that went wrong on BN and that everything has its root cause in politics.

As it turned out, the real cause of the flash flood was not the mismanagement of the Sungai Segget rejuvenation project but instead due to clogged drains at the nearby Jalan Meldrum which was caused by irresponsible quarters who threw garbage and other wastes into them.

Water flow at Sungai Segget on the day of the flood was actually normal and the river did not break its banks despite the heavy rainfall.

Irda and MBJB had since pledged to further improve the condition of drains around the city and ensure a stricter enforcement to prevent recurring clogging and causing another flash flood.

It is unfortunate that Liew was too quick to blame Irda and BN over the whole incident.

Being parachuted to take over the Johor DAP leadership during the run up to the 2013 general election, Liew was probably unaware of the history behind the Sungai Segget rejuvenation project or appreciate how important it was for the betterment of Johor Baru.

For him, it was probably just another complicated BN government’s project with few implementation flaws that could be exploited for DAP’s political mileage.

The project was actually mooted by former Johor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Othman at the very start of the Iskandar Malaysia initiative in the late 2000s.

It was given the green light by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak during his visit to Johor Baru in May 2010, when he announced an allocation of RM200 million to “reopen” the river and to turn it into a landmark urban renewal project for the state capital.

Works to rehabilitate the river, which was infamous for its stench and pollution, had, in fact, started earlier with MBJB releasing large amount of micro-organisms into the murky river to improve its water quality.

The project was modelled after the successful Cheonggyecheon project in Seoul, South Korea.

Cheonggyecheon is a 5.8km creek that flows from west to east through downtown Seoul.

Much like Sungai Segget, it was then infamous for its stench, especially following the population boom in Seoul after the end of the Korean War.

The South Korean government deemed the restoration of Cheonggyecheon vital as it was in line with the move to reintroduce nature to the people of Seoul and to promote an eco-friendly urban design to revitalise the economy of the city.

Opened to the public in September 2005, it was a major success in terms of urban renewal and beautification. The total cost of the project was 386 billion won (about RM899 million).

The Cheonggyecheon creek is now a favourite spot with Seoul residents and foreign tourists alike.

It is, therefore, not too presumptious to expect the Sungai Segget rejuvenation project to yield similar results.

The tentative positive results were for all to see when the area along the river bank was opened to the public last month.

There was no more stench coming for the river and the quality of its water now probably as good as the one at Cheonggyecheon creek.

The improvement of water quality at the now rehabilitated Sungai Segget is for all to see. Note the reflection of surrounding buildings on the water surface.

It was understood that Irda and MBJB will complete the landscaping phase of the project within the second half of this year and by then the whole of downtown Johor Baru will likely be fully transformed along with it.

It is therefore incumbent for all quarters, particularly opposition figures such as Liew to be reasonable and admit that it was wrong to recklessly blame such a good project just to win some political mileage.

It was not an easy task for those charged with cleaning up the river which had been in such a sorry state for more than half a century.

Instead of being merely critical at every turn, those who claim to care for the people and their welfare, in this instance those in Johor Baru, should be more positive with the initiatives being carried out by the government for the benefits of all.

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Shahrum Sayuthi

Shahrum Sayuthi