GEORGE TOWN: Small towns should not be too eager to develop their areas in trying to match cities such as Kuala Lumpur or Petaling Jaya for the sake of making money, as it might bring a less desired effect, including environmental damage, in the long run.
Town planner Ihsan Zainal Mokhtar said instead small towns should focus on coming up with local plans that set out a clear urban hierarchy that limits development in the central business districts (CBDs) or town centres.
He said this is opposed to having a laissez-faire approach where the free market dictates developments in towns.
According to Ihsan, a free-for-all, purely physical development will lead to disastrous effects on the environment and its people, leading to the destruction of forests, water shortages and also bring on traffic-related issues later.
“The common thinking is: ‘If I don’t become a big city, I’m not growing. I’m stagnating if I don’t have physical growth.’
“It is a misconception that when you have new parks and townships, money will come in quickly to your town.
“Not all cities need to be like KL, PJ, JB or Penang. Small towns can grow at their own pace and yet, at the same time, their economies can be growing twice as fast.
“Purely physical development is not important to the growth of any town or city. A robust economy can give you better money rather than just carrying out development projects all the time,” he said.
Ihsan urged local councils to stop parties who want to copy major cities in an attempt to be prosperous through pure physical development, when in reality, the benefits were temporary.
“In the principle of good planning, the thing that rewards you early is not necessarily good, so a gradual growth is better than hard and fast.
“That is why local town plans are up to 30 years, which takes into account the future population, traffic and clean water supply.
“You have to ensure you have a clean water supply for the period and more, or else you will be in trouble when you encounter environmental problems later,” he said.
Ihsan added that councils must engage with their community in developing local plans so as to safeguard their interests while controlling development within good town planning practices.
Ihsan, who is the Malaysian Institute of Planners (MIP) immediate past president, said this on the sidelines of the launch of the City Expo Malaysia 2021 which was held via Zoom today.
Also present at the forum were United Nations Human Settlements Programme executive director Maimunah Mohd Sharif and MIP president Noraida Saludin, who was the moderator.
The City Expo will see a five-day forum and a 30-day exhibition held virtually from Nov 8 to Dec 8 where issues such as urban planning, sharing of ideas and solutions to combat challenges brought by urbanisation will be discussed.