Revitalising Prangin Canal

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If Seoul can courageously dismantle a highway carrying 180,000 vehicles a day and revitalise a stream in the city centre, there is no reason why we cannot restore Prangin Canal in Penang.

Today’s guest writer is Chau Loon Wai:

A good city always provides local residents and visitors alike with quality public realms that invite people to be there – people opt to be there, instead of being there out of necessity. The Prangin Canal is one very important water body in George Town, which had unfortunately been transformed into an open sewer, then conveniently covered, which then led to it being forgotten for too long a time; perhaps many young Penangites may not even be aware of its existence.

More and more cities around the world have become aware of the importance of water bodies in the city and have taken positive steps to right past wrong actions of turning the city’s back on the waterways in the city. Steps towards revitalising water bodies oftentimes involve demolishing even expensive structures (such as freeways and bad buildings). I hope the Penang state government can be persuaded to clean up and uncover the canal, conserve and adaptively reuse historical buildings around the area (crucially for residential or accommodation purposes) and transform the area into a major urban public place that belongs to the people – a living, sustainable urban community. Unless the state government is not serious about the long-term socioeconomic and ecological benefits to countless future generations of Penangites, they should seriously consider the potential and opportunities for creating better people-places in the city.

If you’re interested, please search in the Internet for “San Antonio Walk” (Texas, USA) and “Cheong Gye Cheon Restoration Project” (Seoul, Korea) for two quick examples of how cities invest(ed) in revitalising the city centre by capitalising positively on available waterways in the city (there are of course many more outstanding examples from which we can learn).

The Cheong Gye Cheon (a stream in the Seoul City Centre) project is especially worth looking into because it is a recent project that involved the demolition of an expensive 5.9km expressway that was built over the length of the stream late in the 1960s and completed in 1971. The elevated 5.9km expressway carried over 180,000 vehicles per day before its demolition and sceptics were hoping that traffic chaos in the city would result from the dismantling of the expressway but it turned out all well! The people celebrated its demolition in 2003 and by 2005, clean water flowed again in the stream and it was open to the public.

The stream is now among the most celebrated public places in the city and even more importantly, it becomes the seed that spawns even more revitalisation projects in the CBD of Seoul, which will see the city becoming a network of high quality, vital places for people.

We mustn’t repeat and perpetuate past mistakes of conveniently visually concealing dirty and ugly waterways in the city, which is like throwing the baby out together with the dirty water. What needs to be done is to clean up the Prangin Canal, sensitively redesign its surrounding environment (especially with respect to its historical context), and eventually open it up to the people. In the long term, the canal should become part of the blue-green network of high quality public places in George Town, and even the whole Penang Island.

The scale (width, length) and context of the Prangin Canal are of course different from the Cheong Gye Cheon in Seoul. The eventual design for the Prangin Canal should be of a more moderate scale, that may allow small boats to sail up to Komtar. (I remember seeing old pictures of boats being moored around “Sia-Boey”?) If Seoul can demolish 5.9km of elevated expressway that carried 180,000 vehicles with polluted water flowing below in the CBD and replace the corridor with a stream of clean water in which children can play, it would be a shame if we are unable to clean up the (perhaps 2km?) Prangin Canal, solve the traffic issue of narrowing Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong (for more pedestian spaces or widening of the canal) and revitalise the whole historical enclave on both sides of the canal.

By the way, could anyone advise whether there had been any public consultation prior to the construction of the “mall-like” project (whatever it is) over the Penang-Road-end of the Prangin Canal? I just had a glimpse of the structure when I passed by on my brief return to Penang a while ago. We really need a more holistic and context-sensitive approach to revitalising George Town.

I have more ideas which I would love to share especially if we eventually are able to persuade the people and state government to grab this hard-to-come-by opportunity to do something for the long-term good of Penang.

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Danial

1 Malaysia 2 party system will ensure the positive progress of Malaysia,lets give sometime to LGE & PR to perform,we don’t see BN bring us to a develop country,Taiwan at once left behind us but after 50 years it become a highly develop country,Why?Vietnam ,Thailand & Indonesia soon will overtake us,Why?What is the great about BN?What ampu them,we Rakyat are the boss,sack this useless BN managing teamlah….Change!Change!We want change in a democratic way.Only God is perfect,we need check and balance( Yin Yang ) among human governing & managinglah.

iefa ridza the penangites

it is useless for u all to fight each other..what we need is the solution..not to point each other wrong..am landscape architecture student and im goin to design this prangin canal or prangin market area for my final semester..thanks for sharing this info..i hope u can help me give an idea or any info u have…being a penangites..we should help each other in order to create quality life and so on in penang..email me for any info or idea u have..i will write ur name for good ideas and all in my thesis..thanks alot..

looes74

Khoo, I don’t think LKY that stupid wanting to be Malaysian PM. The most is replacing MCA/MIC as equal political partner. UMNO taking rural sector while PAP taking care of urban sector. Such idea would freak out Tunku. Especially after PKMS or Singapore UMNO disastrous GE exit polls in Singapore. Then the collision course precipitated by Goh kheng Swee, Siew Sin’s cousin At that moment, Singapore got 2 billion USD GDP & 1 billion USD reserve. No armed forces. No natural resource. Budget went into difficulty. Sound familiar…..It’s what LGE facing…..Hence parting advice by LKY to him, need close cooperation… Read more »

nkkhoo

I think old Lee was crying for his broken dream to be 2nd Malaysian PM.

He had never begged money from anyone, he bit the bullet and engaged a consultant from the world bank to transform Singapore to an industrial state.

Let learn all good things from LKY, LGE should not emulate old Lee for another Lim dynasty in Bolehland.

looes74

Nutmeg, Fong Swee Suan has shook hand with LKY. Lets bygone be bygone ok. Unless you are one of the Chees. Last heard, Chees not really welcome in Singapore. Probably, people supported him in Sembawang for the sake of having opposition. I got my Sembawang friend as proof The Chees got their chances in so many places including a duel in Marphearson with Mathias Yao. The Chees gone even further debated in the Health commitee & lost. The Chees & Syed Hamid have something in common. They submitted flawed evidences for arguments Nutmeg, What say you? You SDP supporter? SDA… Read more »

Nutmeg

To @nkkhoo:

Your beloved Lee Kuan Yee … did cry (albeit Crocodile Tears) during the famed on-TV announcement by him that Singapore is separating from Malaysia / Malaysia is kicking Singapore out. Of course, those tears were probably crocodile tears, in order to whip up sympathy among foreign powers and Singaporean voters for poor Lee and his Lee babies (one of whom now runs Singapore).

… Please google (or wikipedia) for “Chia Thye Poh”, and see how … political opponents and their lives (were destroyed).

nkkhoo

Melaka received more than 100 million funds from Federal government for its Melaka river facelifing project before 308.

Penang (appears to be) always a “(forgotten) son” either under BN or PR for UMNO-led federal government.

nkkhoo

I do not see LGE is a great politician with interest to solve many problems in Penang. Not deny that without the funds from BN central government is obstacle to implement any ambitious plan.

Lee Kuan Yew was facing similar problem when Singapore was separated from Malaysia, he did not cry like a baby and blame Tengku for his empty pocket.

The issue is does he come out any plan so far? Name calling MCA is probably his “innovative plan” to insult his political opponent.

Ong Eu Soon

LBJ,
you can said that the civil servants has no initiative and imagination. But our CM (appears to depend) totally on them to roll out any solution. Can you say that our CM has no initiative and imagination too? The best LGE can do is to blame the previous state government when he did not get what he want. He don’t even has the gut to offend the civil servants because he (displays) very little passion in running the state government. All he (appears to) want is the credit but not the work.

nkkhoo

Ramlee..

A guy from my neighbor in Kampung had worked in Tenaga (was LLN) for nearly 20 years. A Malay subordinate trained and coached by him overtook him as his boss. He remained as a deputy director forever for reason everyone aware of.

He decided to quit Tenaga under the early retirement scheme at about 45-year and joined YTS. He is still with YTS after 55-year retirement limit and is one the Francis Yeoh’s important senior management members.

tyra

After 30 years of pointless policies by the Education Ministry to impart ‘moral standards’ in theory only to pass exams, what did our children actually learn? Environment, what is that? Cut&Paste is OK (plagiarism is the norm).
Corruption is king, everything ‘boleh’ (especially for the cronies), Rakyat – who cares…….. UNTIL 308.

Ray

That is positive and good that Prangin River will Revitalized. By the way, it was not a canal, it was an old river.

The old river become a canal, a drain and now under-covered.

Penang should have a river, a clean river; like any great city in the world. But not Sungei Pinang type…

LBJ

Do you think the civil service will take me in. You know damn … well how the recruiting is done.

Ramlee

LBJ – if that is the case, why not you sign up as a civil servant so that you can invoke change in the ways you want it to be? I have had enough of ppl complaining and whinning on this blog. Time for some action. Speak less and action more please.

LBJ

You know why these good ideas will not be taken up?
Because we have civil servants with no initiative and imagination. Because they are too lazy to do the extra work.