By Nuradzimmah Daim


High rises dot the sky in Bangsar South in Pantai Dalam.

High rises dot the sky in Bangsar South in Pantai Dalam.

Pantai Dalam has changed from a quiet Malay village into a modern neighbourhood.

Pantai Dalam has changed from a quiet Malay village into a modern neighbourhood.

In the face of rapid development, Pantai Dalam residents are struggling to keep close-knit ties alive

KUALA LUMPUR: As development changes the face of Pantai Dalam, once the home of villagers and squatters, the residents there now face an altogether new challenge -- keeping the kampung traditions alive.

Bukit Putra Residents' Association chairman Daud Mohamad, 53, said although the livelihoods of the people here had generally improved with the construction of public housing projects (Projek Perumahan Rakyat or PPR), they are now struggling to keep the close-knit ties in a neighbourhood of mainly high-rises.

"We try to keep the kampung spirit alive especially when it comes to special occasions like weddings and gotong-royong.

"We help each other during kenduri but now many are opting for caterers, taking away the opportunity for neighbours to get together and help one another.

"It's different from what it was before, not only physically with blocks of PPR units and apartments. Residents are drifting apart.

"Having said that, we understand that this is a common problem faced in other places, so we try to engage the children through education instead. What we can do is to improve education opportunities for the children by providing tuition classes for school students."

He said the old Pantai Dalam, which was established in the early 1970s, was made up of major villages, namely Kampung Limau, Kampung Selamat, Bukit Putra, Kampung Kerinchi, and Bukit C2 (KTM settlement).

"Pantai Dalam covers an area of about 121.4ha of both government and privately-owned land. Now there are only five per cent of squatters left on private land in Kampung Kerinchi.

"At that time, a lot of us had migrated to Kuala Lumpur from different parts of the country to look for better job opportunities, and we settled in Pantai Dalam. There used to be vegetable farms here."

Describing it as a modern Malay village, Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin, in an interview, said Pantai Dalam had undergone phases of change to become what it is today.

"Back then, people there faced a lot of hardships because of flash floods and fire tragedies. When the PPR flats were built, their livelihoods improved and other developments followed.

"However, there were some (when the area was developed) who did not come back as they were already comfortable in places where they were temporarily relocated.

"Now, the Pantai Dalam neighbourhood is a mixed residential scheme with low-cost to high-end condominium units and commercial development like Bangsar South's The Sphere shopping mall and office tower providing job opportunities to the locals.

"I won't say that Pantai Dalam is the next Bangsar, but I acknowledge the fact that it has improved a lot from what it was, say, 10 years ago."

Among the PPR flats that have been built here include PPR Sri Pantai, PPR Pantai Ria, PPR Sri Cempaka and PPR Kerinchi.

He said there was still a lot to be done to improve its infrastructure and basic amenities.

"Some, such as the hawker centre in PPR Kerinchi, are already underway. It will house the stall operators along the main road (Jalan Pantai Permai) by this month. With the hawkers relocated, we hope that the traffic there can be eased. We also hope to upgrade the roadside as a sidewalk boulevard. If we want to encourage people to take the public transport and walk instead of driving, we have to provide the proper facilities including comfortable pedestrian walkways and bus stops.

"There is also a development taking place on a 20.2ha area in Bukit Kerinchi, which contains a residential scheme, basic amenities, a primary school and a mosque.

"Also, the park in Bukit Gasing on the KL side is expected to be ready for use by year-end with facilities for the public."

He said the primary school would be an addition to the existing SK Bangsar in Jalan Pantai Baru.

As most of the residents in PPR flats are squatters in the area, he said it was easier to communicate with them.

"I don't have problems communicating with residents there as many of them were mostly former squatters I had known for years.

"I understand what they have gone through as I had been there since the 1980s as Umno division information chief.

"Many of these squatters were locals who knew one another so it was easy to organise programmes and activities for them to participate in," he said.

Pantai Dalam folk makes up one-third of the 300,000 constituents in the Lembah Pantai parliamentary constituency.

He said his role as Lembah Pantai Umno division chairman had also helped him to reach out to the residents there.