Inhibit Urban Sprawl to Protect Forests

By:

Wong Tsu Soon

Affiliations:

Agora Society Malaysia

Policy Code:

3j Environment

Problem Statement:

With urban population growing in Malaysia, the tension between urban land use and the need of preservation of forest, wetlands, and agricultural land are getting higher. Dealing with this conflict is a key to sustainable development of human society.
� Unrestricted growth in urban built-up areas is causing land, habitat and biodiversity loss
� The urban sprawl encourages car dependency and a longer commute
� More roads create more carbon emission, more impenetrable surfaces making it difficult for rainwater drainage and causing more flash floods.
� The urban sprawl makes people to live in spread out spaces, decreasing population density and increasing infrastructure and public services cost

Value(s) and Belief(s):

Urban areas reflect the complexity of human society and are a natural evolution of human settlements. Humanity can only sustainably survive by balancing urban growth and natural environment preservation.

Proposal of Solution:

Taking Measures to Inhibit Urban Sprawl and Protect Our Forests.
� Local authorities should draw an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) in Rancangan Tempatan, the built-up area shall not exceed the boundaries
� No new landed property in certain areas (not just zoning) of an urban area
� Limit the size of the land area of a single household in urban areas to prevent unnecessary land loss
� Subsidise residents who are renting or buying houses within a certain distance from the office, probably 3 to 5 km
� Relax zoning restriction, encourage mixed development, rehabilitate shophouses as residential housing. Treat mixed zones as residential and apply residential rates to utility bills, property, and land taxes


The measures above mix both �carrot and stick� approaches:
� The limitation on UGB, no new landed property, and the size of single households in urban areas restrict unhealthy development from proposed and approved projects. Currently our Federal and state governments seem to have an open arms policy to any urban development proposed by developers, regardless of whether they are state-owned or private. By having these limitations included in the legislation, regulations are put in place to ensure both Federal and state governments think carefully before approving projects. Otherwise, they will face scrutiny by both MPs and state assemblymen.
� Relaxing zoning restrictions to allow more mixed development in urban areas, encouraging developers to rediscover the potential of mature urban areas and redevelop communities to higher density and allow for more active residential-commercial interactions
� Housing rental and purchasing subsidies to encourage people to live in a smaller circle closer to the workplace than a sprawling urban area that requires residents to commute long distance. Reducing the commute benefits both physical and mental health, as well as reduces the carbon footprint of a person�s daily activity. Excluding consideration of income brackets for this subsidy is crucial. Higher income groups who are able to own private vehicles may choose not to do so if they can benefit from this subsidy.

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