[Reposted and updated with pictures]
Flanegan’s wish-list for an MRT (Mass Rail Transport) Metro for Kota Kinabalu reminds me of the time I shared a ride with a senior state minister some years ago. We were enjoying the nice ride in his Mercedes along the Likas Coastal Highway and taking in the scenery when I asked him whether he and his cabinet colleagues have any long-term planning for Kota Kinabalu. I mean, really long-term plans, like a new airport, subway, a Putrajaya – the plans that a think tank should consider seriously for KK in 50 years. His answer was there is no committee but he believe there are some DBKK plans – not exactly a reassuring answer from a member of a group comprising our top twelve government state leaders.
For those of us who have travelled a bit and have seen huge
metropolitans metropoleis like New York, London, Tokyo, Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok, etc., it is obvious which city planner has the better foresight. Cluttered and haphazard Manila and Jakarta are huge messes in terms of city planning while the developed countries cities like Tokyo, Seoul and London reflect the foresight and long-term thinking of the city planners. Just use Google Earth and admire the ordered grids of Chicago, or even Singapore, and compare these to Jakarta or Bangkok. I guess our cities, including Kota Kinabalu, are somewhere in between. I fear though that this trend is regressing as our city planners grappled with urban sprawl. I think much of these problems goes way back when land titles in KK were granted patchwork-style in the 50s and 60s .
Having lived at Inanam all my life, I saw Jesselton, when it was essentially a one-pony town, grew to be a big busy city as it now. Sadly, one of the things that I see we are losing almost daily are public access to the foreshore, be it the sea or the river. In the past you can choose a spot anywhere between Yayasan Sabah at Likas, down south along the coast to the Kinarut, and pretty much you can have a nice picnic spot of your own choosing. I guess those days are long past. I always envy the Aussies when I visit their cities like Perth and Brisbane where it seems the whole city sea foreshore are wide expanse of nicely-tended green lawns with leafy tress for public uses. In summer, hundreds of families are picnicking, enjoying the free (unencumbered) and free (no cost) spaces fronting the oceans. Tulips and daffodils are in full bloom, dogs and kids are cart-wheeling and gamboling in the green grass, frisbees are flying…ah, you get the picture.
Also, you can also pretty much feel the “soul” of a city by how much it pays attention to the arts, creative endeavors and disciplines, viz, visual arts, literature and the performing arts – music, drama, dance and film, among others. It would be nice to make KK the culture capital of Malaysia – a Malaysian equivalent of Louvre, the Smithsonian, the Vienna Philharmonic, an opera building grand enough to perform Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”, or even a Sundance Ranch.