In the world of fast-paced travel by land, rail and air, it is easy to forget the importance that rivers play in socio-economic development. Many great cities and civilisations were built on the back of rivers – the Ancient Romans and the Tiber, the Ancient Egyptians and the Nile, London and the Thames, Paris and the Seine, New York and the Hudson, Beijing and the Yangzte, to name a few. For the Selangor State Government, the hope is for the Klang River to join this pantheon of great estuaries – a reflection of how Selangor’s development has long been on the back of the river. To realise such an ambitious goal, the Selangor Government has come up with an equally ambitious plan – the Selangor Maritime Gateway – with Landasan Lumayan (LLSB) entrusted with its execution.
Trade between Malaysia and the EU grows stronger each year. The EU is the 3rd most significant trading partner for Malaysia, following China and Singapore, with countries such as Spain, Ireland, and Italy reported as some of the highest contributors to this relationship. In 2018, bilateral trade totalled at RM183.16 billion, with exports to the EU reaching at RM117.81 billion and imports at RM65.35 billion.
This is dominated mostly by industrial products, contributing to almost 90% of total trade. A majority of imports and exports between Malaysia and the EU come from the trading of electrical and electronic (E&E) products, as well as machinery equipment and parts. Other significant imports and exports include chemicals and chemical products, rubber products, iron and steel products, machinery equipment and components, transport equipment as well as petroleum products.
From here, it’s clear to see how the economic relationship between Malaysia and the EU has grown stronger with each passing year, which is why both parties must work together to foster this relationship. One such way is through a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which is an international agreement to reduce or remove trade barriers and encourage more economic integration. In ASEAN, the EU already has an FTA with Vietnam and Singapore, and discussions to establish one with Malaysia in the works since 2012. While this agreement has not yet come to fruition, many believe, including the ambassadors whom we have interviewed, that establishing an FTA will create stronger ties between Malaysia and the EU.
A River for All
Although plans for the Klang River’s development had been a goal of the Selangor government since 2009, its formalisation only started in 2015. During the announcement of the 2016 Selangor State Budget that year, then Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali revealed that a study on the river’s development would be undertaken.
This study was led by Menteri Besar Selangor Incorporated (MBI Selangor) and involved key State agencies. These were the State Economic Planning Unit (UPEN), the Selangor Water Board (LUAS), the Selangor Department of Irrigation and Drainage (JPS), the Selangor Department of Town and Village Planning (JPBD), the State Department of Public Works (State JKR), the Selangor Land and Mines Office (PTG Selangor), and the five local authorities the Klang River passes through. These are the Klang Municipal Council (MPK), the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA), the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ), the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ), and the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ).
By getting all these stakeholders involved, it reinforced the idea that the Klang River belongs to and is the responsibility of all. It also allowed for the better coordination of planning, which paid off in December 2017 when the Selangor Maritime Gateway (SMG) master plan was formulated. This initiative seeks to revitalise the Klang River to become – in the words of Datuk Seri Azmin Ali – “a landmark to drive new growth and generate a maritime economic ecosystem linking the main towns and cities in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur via the waterway.”
“The State Government is committed to boosting economic growth in towns along the Klang River and making the area a “Smart Central Economic Region.”
– YAB Tuan Amirudin Shari, Dato’ Menteri Besar of Selangor
Selangor’s Stream of Life
A long-term project, SMG is divided into three phases. The first phase, which runs from 2018 to 2022, aims to clean the Klang River of floating debris as well as rehabilitate the water in order to improve its quality. Next comes the establishment of high-impact development in Klang, which is part of the second phase from 2021 to 2031. And beyond that, further development will be pushed in the other areas which the Klang River passes through – namely Shah Alam, Subang Jaya, Petaling Jaya and Ampang Jaya.
SMG is therefore vital to the socio-economic growth of Selangor, and fulfils the five goals of the Smart Selangor initiative, which aims to transform Selangor into ASEAN’s premier Smart State by 2025. These goals are to increase economic growth, ensure environmental preservation, enhance the quality of life, create jobs, and strengthen the State’s fiscal position.
Thus, the SMG has been included as part of the Smart Selangor programme, under the initiative of “Cleaning, Rehabilitation and Development of the Klang River”, particularly the 56 km stretch from Klang to Petaling Jaya. As MBI Selangor has been entrusted to lead the realisation of Smart Selangor, it is only apt that its subsidiary LLSB has been tasked with overseeing the SMG.
The Klang River flows past the mosque at Bandar diRaja Klang. The river is the focus of the Selangor Maritime Gateway project, which aims to transform the area around it into a Smart Central Economic Zone.
“We are focusing on high-impact developments along the Klang River, as well as the islands in the related areas. At the same time, these developments must have a minimum environmental impact on the river.”– YM Raja Shahreen Raja Othman, CEO of MBI Selangor
Protecting the Klang River’s Environmental Heritage
LLSB has had its work cut out for it though. Decades of neglect had caused the tremendous damage to the Klang River. These include illegal dumping of solid and liquid waste into the river as well as the river banks, from both domestic and industrial sources. Notwithstanding the unsightly scene of rubbish clogging up the river, pollution had also caused the water quality to deteriorate.
Taking into consideration the task at hand, the first thing LLSB did was to embark on the clean-up of the Klang River by removing floating debris and other solid waste from the waterway and the river banks. In fact, efforts to do so started in 2016 even before the finalisation of the SMG plan, a reflection of the importance the Selangor Government has placed on enhancing the river.
Recounting the scope of the challenge, LLSB Managing Director Syaiful Azmen Nordin noted that “There were a lot of waste and illegal dumping along the river banks especially near abandoned areas where access was minimal. So we started by collecting the waste and sending them to the landfill.”
Although the development of the Klang River will take an east – west route, from Klang to Petaling Jaya, the cleaning of the river took the opposite direction, in line with how the river flows into the Straits of Malacca. Starting in Petaling Jaya, LLSB painstakingly worked its way through the 56 km stretch, and in doing so managed to clear 50,000 tonnes of solid waste from the river.
That achievement is a source of some pride for Syaiful, who noted that just 128 tonnes of rubbish were cleared in Kuala Lumpur’s River of Life project, where the length of the waterway is 110 km. Yet, mixed with that pride is a tinge of sadness that the problem was ignored and left to worsen for so long.
Still, better late than never as the old saying goes, and what LLSB has achieved in just three years has been nothing short of miraculous. Whereas the Klang River was once choked with rubbish, littering the banks and clogging and impeding the flow of the water, today the area has been cleared of solid waste and floating debris.
A beaming Syaiful Azmen Nordin, Managing Director of Landasan Lumayan, showing off plans for the Klang River’s development as part of the Selangor Maritime Gateway project. To spark the revival of this important estuary. five catalyst projects are underway – namely a Mangrove Point. a Cultural Village, a Community Park, a Grand Bazaar and the Pengkalan Batu Park. These are expected to transform the Klang River into a thriving tourism and commercial hub.
For Syaiful, the successful cleaning of the Klang River is just the beginning. Just as important is ensuring that the river remains clean. “To make sure that all our work does not go to waste, we are utilising technologies such as sensors and drones to monitor activities at and in the Klang River. In addition, we have also installed seven main logbooms at the boundaries of each local authority and 48 mini logbooms to stop waste from streaming to the river.”
In addition to the above, LLSB is also relying on good old legwork, or motorcycle work, in the form of a motorised River Patrol Unit to patrol and stop illegal dumping at the Klang River. According to Syaiful, the unit, which was announced in July, will be fully operational within this year.
“The River Patrol Unit is also part of our community engagement programme,” he explained. “Besides patrolling the river banks ourselves, we also like the community to get involved as well. We want them to be our eyes and ears in looking out for and reporting illegal activities, because the Klang River belongs to all of us.”
As part of the first phase of the Selangor Maritime Gateway, five catalyst projects have been identified to boost the commercial and tourism sectors in the parts of Klang surrounding the Klang River. These are:
Encompassing an area of 70.8 acres, the Mangrove Point will be a Reservation Park that features fauna and flora, in particular mangrove trees, at the Klang River. This will bring life to a lifeless location and transform it into a tourism hotspot. A project that fulfils the goal of ensuring environmental protection, it is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2020.
Pengkalan Batu Park
The redevelopment of the Pengkalan Batu Park is expected to result in the creation of a lifestyle area where people can go for rest, relaxation and recreation. Measuring 16 acres, it is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2020 and will help enhance the quality of life of the Rakyat.
The 35 acre Cultural Village will be a location for people to spend their leisure time next to the river while being given the opportunity to appreciate the rich cultures of the various ethnic groups in Selangor. This is in line with the goal to showcase Selangor as a model of racial harmony in Malaysia.
Similar to Shanghai Weiqun Bazaar, the 33.9 acres Grand Bazaar will allow small businesses to sell their products to visitors, creating a tourist hotspot while also providing businesses with the opportunities for another venue to earn income, and will help increase economic growth in Selangor.
Community River Park
The 98 acres Community River Park will be built on the site of an abandoned landfill. Once a major source of pollution of the Klang River, this abandoned landfill is being rehabilitated by LLSB in partnership with a South Korean company. The goal is to transform it into a high-income residential area, with the goal of encouraging high-income earners to live in Klang. With this quality of life will be increased and it will also help spur economic activity.
Enhancing Quality of Life through River Rehabilitation
Having cleared the Klang River of rubbish, LLSB’s next challenge is to rehabilitate the water quality. While Syaiful has no illusions about the magnitude of the task, he is pleased to note that the cleaning up efforts have resulted in some improvement to the water quality.
“When we started, the Klang River water was categorised as Class IV under the National Water Quality Standards, which is where the water is contaminated and has a foul odour. Now, in some areas, the water quality has gone up to Class III, where the water looks clean and has no odour, although it is still not fit for human contact. In time, we aim to improve it to Class IIb, which is where it can be used for recreational activities,” he said.
To achieve that, LLSB is looking for technology partners, namely water cleaning experts, to help implement the process. “We invite relevant companies, from Malaysia and abroad, to join us in making a difference by transforming the water quality of the Klang River, and in doing so enhance the people’s quality of life and enhance the natural environment,” Syaiful stated.
“What we are doing here in the Klang River is not just for Klang alone. It is not just for Selangor alone. It is for the whole of Malaysia. Rivers are the arteries of a nation, and the Klang River is one of the most important in the country. We may call it Selangor Maritime Gateway, but the benefits of SMG will be felt throughout the country,” he emphasised.
“Indeed the river is a stream of life in as much as water is the lifeline of humanity.”
– YB Datuk Seri Azmin Ali,
Former Menteri Besar of Selangor
Boosting Economic Growth at Selangor’s Future Growth
The importance of the Klang River to Selangor, and Malaysia as a whole, can be seen in the position of the cities, towns and districts it passes through. Klang, for instance, is the home to the country’s largest port – Port Klang – a major player in reinforcing Malaysia’s status as a major maritime nation. Shah Alam is the Selangor State Capital, where all State government agencies and departments are located, and is also home to several industrial parks. Both Subang Jaya and Petaling Jaya are major urban and commercial areas, while Ampang Jaya is a thriving township.
In total, around 3.076 million people reside in those area, more than half Selangor’s population of 5.79 million. The successful execution of the SMG will lead to greater social, economic and environmental benefits for Selangor, resulting in more revenue for the State and the nation. This is part of the Selangor Government’s plans to establish the area as a “Smart Central Economic Region” as revealed in the State’s 2019 Budget.
As mentioned, the first step in the development of the Klang River – once cleaning and rehabilitation has been completed – is to tap into its tourism potential, particularly that of Klang. In many ways, Klang can be considered a sleeping giant of sorts. The main town – Bandar diRaja Klang (the Royal Town of Klang) – is the State’s royal capital and the district is the second most populated municipality in Selangor as well as the fourth in Malaysia.
“The intervention of YAB Tuan Amirudin Shari was the turning point for the SMG project. It was he who, to borrow a phrase from Sir Isaac Newton, “saw further by standing on the shoulders of giants” – and put his backing firmly behind the project.”
– Syaiful Azmen Nordin, Managing Director, Landasan Lumayan Sdn. Bhd.
However, social and economic activity in the town and its surrounding areas have been rather lacklustre. To change that, the SMG has identified five projects to unlock the tourism potential of the river as well as the Klang District and Klang Town.
However, before those projects could take off, the land matters had to be resolved. Fortuitously, the SMG has found a champion in the person of the Menteri Besar – YAB Tuan Amirudin Shari – who led the way in resolving five plots of land for development.
“The intervention of YAB Tuan Amirudin Shari was the turning point for the SMG project. We are thankful to YB Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, who envisioned the great potential of Sungai Klang and kickstarted the project, but it was YAB Tuan Amirudin who, to borrow a phrase from Sir Isaac Newton, “saw further by standing on the shoulders of giants” – and put his backing firmly behind the project. Landasan Lumayan is honoured to be leading the charge in executing the grand vision for Selangor’s river of economic success,” Syaiful revealed.
The five projects have been called “catalyst projects”, as they are meant to help kick-start the second phase of the SMG. “We have a number of projects in the pipeline. For instance, we are redeveloping the Pengkalan Batu Park, which we hope will become a popular recreational spot with water features supplied from the Klang River. We will have river taxis and also plan to develop a mangrove point where visitors can appreciate the beautiful mangrove trees we have near the Klang River. And that will also help boost eco-tourism in the State,” Syaiful revealed.
All in all, SMG is expected to boost the economy of the areas surrounding the Klang River, in particular hospitality, tourism, retail, property and the service industry in general. All in all, resulting in the creation of at least 32,000 new jobs.
By managing to clean the Klang River, Landasan Lumayan has taken the first step towards the realisation of this goal. For Syaiful Azmen Nordin, it is important that people – potential investors, the populace and other stakeholders see the potential the river holds. “Look at the Melaka River. Look at the Singapore River. They were once polluted, but now they are thriving tourism and social and commercial hubs. This is what we want for the Klang River. This is what we want for Selangor,” he stated firmly. And with the full support of the Menteri Besar of Selangor behind it, Selangor Maritime Gateway is set for success.