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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Is Sabah gov’t pushing ahead with project next to Atkinson clock tower?

It is greatly disappointing to learn that the Sabah state government and Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) has apparently yet again approved and proceeded with another 18-storey multipurpose building next to the oldest monument in the city.
After the 2011 judicial review, the state government had decided to shelve the project due to mass protests because the public were worried that such massive construction work would affect the old clock tower structure.
We want to ask how the government and city hall can justify their decision to bypass the central board evaluation, approve and push forward for a major construction work next to a sensitive and fragile heritage icon which already reached 119 years old last week since it was completed on April 20, 1905.
The secrecy of the approval process makes it even more questionable. Have they taken into consideration the weak soil structure which caused a small landslide and slope tear in 2013 which has created fears that the clock tower will collapse?
The building and construction work will also affect the solitude of the surrounding natural green signal hill where it is a refuge and relief spot not just for the remaining animals in the city but to all the city folks.
This construction will create more traffic congestion to the already congested and narrow Jalan KK bypass with several hotels and major development built and planned along the road and KK Port Authority site.
This will certainly worsen the congestion during peak rush hour, the sunday market and festival days which currently is already unbearable.
It might be true that the height 18-storey building will not affect the historical value of the clock tower, but it will significantly affect the attraction value of the clock tower.
The clock tower, since it was built, has always been well-known among the locals and tourists with its spacious greenery and beautiful hill slope surroundings.
The natural greenery of the clock tower site is a top attraction and reason for tourists to visit this city and Sabah because there are not many more wooden structure clock towers around the world.
The clock tower was depicted in a very famous January 1911 Jesselton Town photo which captured the historical town padang, old railway line and sea port.
Today, the clock tower is almost overshadowed by Wisma Intiutama and Wisma TWB which are respectively six and eight storeys high.
The proposed 18-storey building will also hurt the photoscape value, dwarfing and encapsulating the iconic heritage structure to the point of perhaps being seen as ugly and distasteful
Let us learn from the planning mistake made to the old post office (now Sabah Tourism Board Office) where an 11-storey Menara Jubili and 12-storey Wisma Great Eastern were built.
We need to protect the remaining colonial architecture without it being overshadowed by high-rise buildings.
The approval of the 18 storey-building next to the most historical monument in Sabah shows that the government and city hall are short-sighted over the future of the city.
The state government and DBKK were too hasty in their decision to approve so many high-rise buildings in the remaining greenery area without considering the other potential value KK city can offer in the near future if they decide to preserve the greenery and heritage of the city.
Let us not forget that the Sabah is among the top tourist spots in the South-East Asia region and tourists do not come here from their developed homes to see more badly-designed concrete structures.
They come to seek and experience the unique solitude of greenery and nature that our city has and which they don’t have in their overdeveloped concrete cities.

JEFFERI CHANG is Save Open Space Kota Kinabalu (SOS KK) coordinator, co-founder and former member of Heritage Sabah Society, and co-plaintiff of the 2011 Atkinson Clock Tower judicial review.-Mkini

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