March 16, 2009 Monday

Save vanishing piece of past

IT MUST be obvious to even the most casual observer that Telok Kurau has become too crowded for comfort in the last three years. The narrow lorongs, or streets, of this quiet suburb are now lined with cars without a break, making it difficult to manoeuvre in and out of them. Peak time, it is almost impossible to cross Telok Kurau Road. This is certainly not progress.

For nearly a century, this area was dotted with single-storey bungalows. About 40 or 50 years ago, neat rows of terrace and semi-detached houses began to sprout among them. Then came the era of three-storey terrace houses and semi-Ds. All this still did not destroy the equanimity or character of the area.

Today, alas, the quiet of the area is drowned by the daily pounding of the piling machines and, when the dust clears, new glass-fronted, four- or five-storey buildings emerge. They are here, there, everywhere, in no particular order. The order of the day seems to be: Have land, will build. So there is a hotchpotch of low- and high-rises. Whole lorongs of terrace houses and semi-Ds have surrendered to spanking new flats. The relentless march of the en bloc brigade has destroyed the skyline. Nothing is sacred.

Smack in the middle of a row of 20 or so terrace houses, a three-storey house appears incongruously amid a neat line. Near my house, a four-storey (or three- storey plus attic) is almost complete. If there is a need to thrust skywards, surely there is land in undeveloped areas which can be zoned exclusively for them instead of destroying the character of existing estates.

We claim to be a First World country. Yet we allow rampant building to crowd out our heritage of a few remaining pockets of the past.

I am sure other similar areas are suffering in like manner. It is time the authorities stopped the change of plot ratios and left these pockets of heritage intact. I hope this will be done soon before Telok Kurau and other such areas disappear.

Murali Sharma