The River Of Life Project in Kuala Lumpur

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EPP 5 Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad Illustration1

Illustration of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building

The future landscape of KL looks promising, with a number of initiatives being carried out under the Economic Transformation Programme. Sharuna Segaren looks at one particularly exciting project, the River of Life, which aims to transform the Klang River into a vibrant and bustling waterfront.

Back in its heyday, the Klang River’s water was clean and the river was an essential part of tin-mining transportation. Unfortunately, the Klang River (Sungai Klang) that we know today has remained an eyesore for years. It has been looked down upon for its muddy, toxic waters and excessive rubbish build-up, primarily due to its location in the heart of a populous city whose residents aren’t averse to using its waters as a waste bin. It is also prone to flash floods caused by erosion from the surrounding land.

Efforts have been made over the years to clean it up, with little or no real success, until now. Seeing the potential of what is known as possibly Greater Kuala Lumpur’s most “under-utilised natural asset,” the River of Life project has been identified as an Entry Point Project in the Greater Kuala Lumpur/ Klang Valley National Key Economic Area (NKEA) under the Economic Transformation Programme. Sadly, Malaysians have become accustomed to dirty rivers, but hopefully this will be a thing of the past as we seek greener pastures with projects such as the River of Life.

Renovating and Revitalising

EPP 5 Dam along Sg Klang in Keramat

Dam along Sg Klang in Keramat

The Klang River reflects a promising new future – as a heritage spot, a prime location within the city centre – and it has lay dormant for too long, an economic goldmine just waiting to be discovered. Drawing on examples from cities such as Vancouver, Melbourne, Geneva, and Seoul, the River of Life is set to make Kuala Lumpur more appealing with green surroundings, walkways, and a vibrant riverfront.

By breathing life into this poor river, long neglected and polluted, people will one day flock to the River of Life, whether to enjoy a picnic, check out a new restaurant, go for a run, or just bask in the sun during lunch time. Thanks to our favourable weather, the waterfront can be enjoyed 365 days a year. Currently, shops and homes along the river front turn their backs against the unappealing view, but in time, that view will be something to vie for.

EPP 5 ROL - Sg Klang, Pasar Seni Station, Kuala Lumpur


Sg Klang, Pasar Seni Station

The primary goals are to clean up and beautify the river, and develop the land surrounding it. By doing so, it will inevitably attract a large number of competitive investments and deliver a high number of economic opportunities, which can only serve the city and her people well. The project is also an excellent way to educate the public on the importance of environmental awareness, something that Malaysians are slowly beginning to adopt, but are in need of more initiatives to continue progressing. Like many of the transformational efforts currently underway in Malaysia, the River of Life project is massive in scope and scale. Accordingly, the project has been split into three distinct phases, which are River Cleaning, River Beautification, and Land Development, and the overall project progress currently stands at 46%.

Paying the Piper

EPP 5 Rubbish-free Sg Klang along Jalan Kuchin

Rubbish-free Sg Klang along Jalan Kuching

A big question on everyone’s mind, undoubtedly, was how the undertaking of such an immense project would be funded. The Federal Government has allocated approximately RM4.4 billion for the project, and it has been revealed that the commercial potential of the river transformation is expected to surpass the initial cost of the project and generate ongoing investments from businesses, properties, and land. It is recognised that cleaning up and revitalising the Klang River isn’t just in the interests of the city’s residents, it’s very much in the economic interests of the city, too.

EPP 5 Flood Mitigation Initiative in Sentul (1)

Flood Mitigation Initiative in Sentul

A study is currently being conducted by DBKL’s Economic Planning and Development Coordination Department to determine the best use of the identified government land along the river beautification corridor. This will reveal the most feasible development model that will generate capital from the government-owned land along the 10.7-km riverfront corridor.

If all goes to plan, and KL’s river model follows that of many other cities, the land fronting the river will evolve from being neglected and maligned property to being some of the city’s prime real estate, delivering both financial rewards and recreational enjoyment for residents and visitors.

Making It Beautiful

EPP 5 Uncovering the stairs of Masjid Jamek


Uncovering the stairs of Masjid Jamek

River beautification efforts have already been underway in the Masjid Jamek area. Besides revitalizing old neighbourhoods, the plan is to restore heritage sites back to their former glory in an effort to attract more tourists.

Led by the Physical Planning Department at DBKL, The River Beautification initiative is focused on the 10.7-km river front stretch within the city centre from Kg Puah to Mid Valley. Phase One began last year, and is focused in Precinct 7 or Heritage Quarter, where important historical landmarks of Kuala Lumpur (Masjid Jamek, Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad, St Mary’s Cathedral, Panggung Bandaraya) are situated.

A scenic trek that will be stretched out from Sentul to Seputeh is part of the effort to encourage jogging and cycling among the Malaysian community. There will also be other public parks, pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes built along this stretch. The riverbanks are also expected to be filled with much coveted prime spots, with shops, restaurants, office buildings, and homes taking advantage of the newly transformed clean and attractive views of the revitalized waterway.

Cleaning It Up

EPP 5 River Water Treatment Plant construction in Sentul

River Water Treatment Plant construction in Sentul

One of the main goals is to raise the quality of the river’s water from the current Class III and Class IV (not suitable for body contact) to Class IIB (suitable for body contact and recreational usage) by the year 2020. The Department of Irrigation and Drainage Malaysia, leads the river cleaning initiative, backed by over 20 agencies across four Ministries and two Selangor local authorities.

The current progress of the river’s cleanliness goals stands at 56%. Some of the measures taken this year were the completion of installation of 158 communal grease traps within the areas under DBKL, MPAJ, and MPS. The wastewater discharge at the completed Waste Water Treatment Plants at Pasar Harian Selayang, Pasar Jalan Kelang Lama, and Pasar Air Panas are also already in compliance to Class IIB standards 97% of the time.

Admittedly, this work is not readily visible, and is certainly less than glamorous. Grease traps and wastewater treatment aren’t exactly front page news, nor do these activities lend themselves to many photo ops. However, these efforts are part of the required foundation for the River of Life project, and doing it right makes the subsequent phases much more likely to succeed. Once the beautification works are kicked off, you can bet the project will be much more visible and, in line with that, given greater prominence and publicity.

Current Progress

EPP 5 ROL - Taman Melawati, Upper Sg Klang, Malaysia.

Taman Melawati, Upper Sg Klang

For now, it’s still in the early days for this project. Phase One works were initially expected to be fully completed by the end of 2016. However, progress has been slower than expected, and the progress of the construction is only at 4% right now, with a little over a year and a half to go.

There are a number of reasons for this. First, the interface with the construction of the Interceptor system under the river cleaning initiative had to be resolved, both technically and contractually. Also, since the site had numerous historically important landmarks, the contractors had to exercise extra caution in their approach to the method of the construction.

For example, the exposure of the grand staircase of Masjid Jamek is being done through manual labour rather than with heavy machinery, in order to maintain as much preservation of the ancient structure as possible, especially since the staircase was part of the original mosque design from over a century ago.

EPP 5 River Water Treatment Plant in UKAY Perdana, Ampang

 River Water Treatment Plant in UKAY Perdana, Ampang

The remaining 10 river beautification packages that cover the riverfront areas from Puah Pong up north to Mid Valley will be tendered out this year. Due to the fact that the project is only now in the first stages, and much is happening behind the scenes, there hasn’t been a whole lot of publicity for this amazing project. However, as mentioned, Phase Two – when river beautification efforts really begin to ramp up – is when people are more likely to see changes happen, and it will become increasingly clearer what the Klang River was destined to be.

So, keep an eye on the development of the River of Life, as it has the potential to make a huge impact on Kuala Lumpur’s city landscape. While it may take some time before a project of this magnitude can be fully completed, it looks like it will be well worth the wait!

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Source: The Expat Magazine May 2015

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