Construction Misery in Bangsar

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I have lost my pool. No, I did not misplace it. It’s worse than that.

I can, frustratingly, see it. It stares back at me, missing me as forlornly as I miss it. I can watch its soft waves ripple sweetly when there is a breeze or roll angrily during a fierce thunderstorm. I can hear people in it. I can touch it if I can trust there is no mean person lurking around to steal my forearm walker that I must leave at the foot of two flights of steep stairs. I also must be feeling unusually energetic and in the peak of physical and mental health to actually climb those stairs. Only then can I walk the several meters over to the pool to dip in a foot or hand. And why not dip in my entire body?

Construction is why. Another high-rise condo has just started to be built less than thirty metres away from my pool where it is so close that the debris can and will be falling into it soon. It is also where dozens and then hundreds of male workers will be a mere handshake from my precious pool – my physical therapy oasis where I can most effectively exercise my poor, weak back muscles. These workers, I know from long experience, will as sure as shooting, be gawking, hollering, spitting, waving, and leering at the disabled white lady flapping about in an artificial body of water seemingly going nowhere.

But why is this new construction so close to my shimmering oasis at all? That is the question I want to ask every person involved in the decision to build this 18-floor condo that is literally squeezed between my condo (which sits on a high corner slope) and another high-rise condo that itself was built on a small plot of land a few years ago. In fact, off Jalan Kapas, where I live, there are over two dozen high-rise condo buildings with one nine-storey office building, funnily enough, housing The Expat Group and our other companies. Our building sits on the end of the dead end that is Jalan Kapas. Yes, a dead end, two-lane street with no thru-way for the several thousand people, mostly expats, living here. Nothing, believe me, has bonded local with expat as much as our shared outrage of this intrusive project.

Jalan Kapas is built on a hill that overlooks much of Bangsar and KL. Although I can still see the Petronas Towers from several windows, there are now two massive condo buildings in the way of even more sweeping views. Most people move in here for those views which are now being eliminated.

I discussed the legalities with a good lawyer friend who lives across the street, wondering who might be involved with this unbelievable decision to build on this tiny plot of land. The narrow street has no room to even park one lorry, never mind the type of equipment vehicles they will require. I am truly puzzled. He said they would have had to get zoning and other approvals from many government entities, but they must have received them because they have started the project. He said it was possible for residents in surrounding condos to sue the developer in civil court for blocking their views, or owners of condo units to sue for loss of equities, but that it most likely did not violate any laws on the books.

I say, let’s get enforceable laws on our books and fast! Not to do so is to prove the oft-said, Malaysia has a first world infrastructure but a third world mentality. It is the idea of a fire that most concerns me. One fire engine, anywhere on these narrow slips of streets, all dead ends that run off Jalan Kapas, would block hundreds if not thousands of people from trying to flee to safety. When the tiny corner lot at the beginning of Jalan Kapas was also amazingly built into a condo complex on a miniscule bit of land, that year’s New Year Eve at about 7pm, an 18-wheeled lorry got stuck in the mud and tipped over, completely blocking the road. No one could get in or out for several hours. Happy New Year 2009?

Countless people signed different petitions to stop this new project from starting, all to no avail. Most of the land in here is a former swamp and the land is clearly eroding on the hills. Will it take another tragedy to stop this overbuilding, like the 1993 Highland Towers collapse that killed 48 people and demolished the homes of other families because the slope it was on was washed away in a heavy rainstorm?

And there is also a pool, mine to be exact, that will soon be empty of people and most likely closed down with a strong cover to prevent damage from the debris that will fall into it. This is the type of thing that makes me homesick for my Western home where no projects like these would ever even be considered. But to change this blind building of high rises is to swim upstream against a very powerful tide.


Source: The Expat December 2013

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