I always have nostalgic feeling about the 5 year stay I have in KE Hall, College Road near the Singapore General Hospital. It was during my 5 years of undergraduate days there.
At that time, our ringgit was on par with the Sing dollar ( at one time, it was even stronger, making things in Singapore much cheaper than home), and I normally would buy back fruits whenever going back to Penang whenever i had a break. The place I frequented most in Singapore was the Chinatown area, a stone throw and 15 minutes walk from our hostel.
AT that time, there was a flea market there every night, and going there after dinner became part of the routine for many medical students staying at KE Hall and had become a form of relaxation after a hard day at the hospital ward. (There were students from other faculties too staying there, but the majority was still medical and dental students).
People’s Park was already up. But we normally would go to the flea market since things were cheap, crowds were more colourful and it was good for people’s watching too, not to mention some of the food that was cheap and good.
Chinatown, or Niu Cher Sui in Mandarin, is still up, and has now been designated a heritage area. Even though much has changed and the flea market has gone( there are still stores in certain areas, but no more those who traded from a floor mat), the buildings are still there and the facade has not changed much, with most buildings painted and looking much newer than before.
This is heritage and all over the world, people are now preserving heritage buildings, since it is not only for the architecture, but also for the history and the memory of the people who had built, laboured, stayed and traded there.
Heritage is about our past, an important part of any nation.
Thus, it is with a feeling of disgust that I read that our MRT Co is going to acquire part of KL Chinatown area to make way for underground tunneling. How the surface buildings will be affected by tunnelling I do not know, since I am not a geo engineer and have no expertise on this.
The question I have for the authority is just this: Isn’t our heritage more important than development?
Our present Masjid Jamed stretch is underground but it did not affect those shops that are on the surface along the masjid jamed, pasar seni stretch. Why can’t same thing be done to the Chinatown area, if the line cannot be re-routed or re-aligned.
Today, news had it that shops in Bukit Bintang area are also being acquired. How on Earth would the underground tunnel affect those shops, I do not know, and maybe someone out there can enlighten me.
If the Channel Tunnel between England and France can be below sea, and there is no need to acquire the English Channel seabed and empty the seawater above the tunnel prior to making the tunnel, why can’t we be doing the same thing?
If shops are acquired in BBintang area, and they are not even affected by the tunneling, and those who acquire it use it for other development and make a pile, then it is not right since those owning the buildings would be forced to give up a gold mine in the name of building MRT.
It is like robbing Peter to pay Paul..
I hope the authority can view the whole acquiring exercise in a more preservative mode, and try to use more modern technology in building this. Already our MRT cost is not cheap ( read my post on this). We do not want to add our loss of heritage to the financial cost of building it. There is simply no value that an be attached to heritage, since it is something priceless.