KUALA LUMPUR: MRT Corporation (MRT Corp) today said that it was trying unprecedented and creative ways to avoid compulsory land acquisitions in areas where the Sungai Buloh-Kajang line passes under the Klang Valley My Rapid Transit (KVMRT) project.
MRT Corp took over ownership of the KVMRT project from Prasarana Negara Bhd yesterday.
Newly-appointed MRT Corp chief executive officer Azhar Abdul Hamid said: The approach were taking is unprecedented. Were not looking at taking anyones land. We are trying to move away from compulsory land acquisitions. Work with me Were just interested in the tunnel, not the land above.
Were looking at creative ways to making things happen with the least pain, he said at the companys first press conference here. Also present was MRT Corp project director Marcus Karakashian.
He said the plan was not to acquire any land or demolish any building along Jalan Sultan, but to draw up an agreement with the owners under which the land title would be re-issued with provision for the MRT tunnel to co-exist below.
Azhar said he had met with the affected parties from Chinatown, Bukit Bintang, and Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) earlier this month and have presented the proposals.
We understand that the current laws do not leave much room to manoeuvre but the way to avoid acquisition is by having a mutually acceptable agreement with all affected parties individually, he said.
Asked if there was any guarantee on MRT Corps part that land will be returned to the owners in Chinatown, Azhar said:
MRT Corp guarantees that we have no intention to take any land, and we have no intention to demolish any buildings. Were concerned for the safety of the people there and! thats w hy they need to move out for six months.
He added that fair compensation will be paid to shopowners during the duration that they are relocated.
He said during his meeting with the affected landowners in Chinatown, it was conveyed to them that we will find ways of not acquiring land and not demolishing the buildings. We will find ways to ensure the interests of both sides are protected as far as the tunnel construction is concerned.
Azhar said eventhough Jalan Sultan was not a gazetted heritage site, MRT Corp recognised it as a heritage area, and would not want to use the Land Acquisition Act to take over the site.
However, for the Bukit Bintang area, he said there was no choice but to demolish certain areas for construction to take place.
The biggest challenge will be in Bukit Bintang because the area is so compact that we cannot build the underground tunnel without demolishing some buildings on the surface, he said.
However, he added that MRT Corps proposed plan was to have an agreement with the landowners to retain the land titles but to agree to allow the company to clear the surface area.
We will compensate for any loss of business and for any demolished buildings. We are open to an agreement to re-build shops for the owners to return I have also offered to work with them and the Tourism Ministry to re-develop the whole area so that Bukit Bintang will be the star of the city, said Azhar.
However, he said the Bukit Bintang landowners were adamant and there was nothing MRT Corp could do.
I can understand they dont want to give up their property. Our proposal is to give us the land temporarily. We would sign an agreement with them committing ourselves to make good whatever we have demolished.
We would even put back the buildings brick by brick except for those areas where we need to build the exits, air vents, and access, he said, adding that a similar plan was proposed to the Jalan Inai la! ndowners .
We wont change alignment
Azhar said while he was optimistic that an agreement could be reached, he was disappointed with the landowners who were unwilling to cooperate.
He said if a workbale solution could not be reached, MRC Corp would have to leave it to the authorities to go through with the compulsory land acquisition.
On the proposal by affected landowners to re-align the tracks, he said that would not be possible.
The alignment is most optimal and we will not change it, he said.
He added that the experts have studied all other options, including re-alignment, before coming up with the final alignment.
The alignment was not something we plucked out of thin air. We looked at all options to make sure that what we decided would deliver maximum benefits, said Azhar.
He said the final alignment took into consideration issues concerning engineering, land suitability and also public opinion.
Azhar said there were certain parties which did not fully understand the issues and were attempting to derail the project, but the work must go on.
I do not want to paint a gloomy or rosy picture. As far as I am concerned, MRT Corp has noble intentions to overcome problems such as traffic congestion.
We tried to accommodate as much as we can to make sure the interests of landowners are protected, but it seems that our gestures on the table are not good enough.
We wont say no to proposals we can use but to say that MRT Corp takes a high-handed approach is unfair.
We are trying to uphold the interests of all parties, especially the public. It is never our intention to upset the public because what we are doing here is for the public.
Azhar said that if everything went according to schedule, people in the Klang Valley would have 51km of trackline by July 2017.