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COMMENT:

SINCE his childhood, Sharifudin Mohd has always known Sungai Segget along Jalan Wong Ah Fook in Johor’s state capital as among one of the murkiest and dirtiest rivers in the country.

Like most Johor Baru residents, the 40-year-old forwarding agent remembered Sungai Segget for its terrible unbearable stench in the 1980s to early 2000s.

“Most of us would avoid the Sungai Segget area or even hold our breath when passing by the area,” said Sharifudin when met today.

However, Sharifudin was the latest victim to fall into the Sungai Segget’s 3km-long construction site along the busy Jalan Wong Ah Fook yesterday afternoon.

He was going to work on his Yamaha LC135 motorcycle when he claimed that a car entered his path. One of the car doors suddenly opened, causing him to veer away, landing him in an uncovered construction hole in Sungai Segget.

Thankfully, Sharifudin survived the ordeal and only fractured his hand although the hole was 4m deep. His motorcycle as also badly damaged.

Never in his four decades of existence had he imagined falling into Sungai Segget, which is something that no Johor Baru resident wants to experience.

At present, the Sungai Segget construction project is undergoing a flood mitigation and rejuvenation project.

Back in 2005, the state government covered up the river and called it Legaran Segget.

Last year, flushed with federal government funding of RM220 million, the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) spearheaded the construction of the Sungai Segget flood mitigation and rejuvenation project.

However, due to what is seen as badly-supervised road work, its construction along Jalan Wong Ah Fook has became the bane of Johor Baru residents, with constant flash flooding and other dangers posed to motorists.

And it was an accident waiting to happen with certain parts of the stretch not having barriers and badly lit at night.

Sharifudin, who is currently recuperating from his injuries, said the contractor should have taken more pro-active steps to supervise the stretch.

“The contractor knows that the Jalan Wong Ah Fook stretch is busy with constant heavy traffic.

“Can’t they cover up or barricade the construction areas properly? We are talking about other people’s lives here,” he said.

And what Sharifudin said is something that all Johor Baru residents want to see, which is properly supervised development to minimise the impact of risks to the people.

The latest incident involving him has not only drawn attention to the hazards faced by motorists and the general public, but has shown up the inadequacy of basic safety requirements.

Irda, on the other hand, seems to be oblivious to the situation at its projects and the danger posed.

As a statutory body, they should also be promoting a culture of safety as part of the city’s development planning.

Personally, I can’t see why Irda fails to supervise its projects and also contractors as they apparently have the expertise in infrastructure development.

We are all living in 2016 and not 1996 now, and the people would expect the authorities to take stringent precautions where public safety is concerned.

The same thing goes for the Irda hotline, as stated on the construction information board fronting the Sungai Segget project.

I called the Irda hotline at 07-233 3000. A computer-generated voice greeted me.

This defeats the purpose of putting up a hotline number for emergencies and is short of neglecting the interests of the public.

Irda, whose chief executive Datuk Ismail Ibrahim is the project’s director, should look into this as it affects the daily motorists in the Johor Baru city centre.

Over the years, Irda’s other infrastructural development projects have also hit a raw nerve with local residents.

Most of it had to do with badly supervised construction work and irresponsible lorry drivers picked by the contractors in south Johor.

In 2010, an innocent youth’s car was hit by construction debris from work on the coastal highway flyover along Jalan Skudai, in front of Dataran Bandaraya Johor Baru.

Luckily, the youth and his friends survived the incident although the roof of his car was flattened.

So, how can we praise Irda’s appointed contractors when some of them have earned a bad reputation for their life-threatening work?

This I have seen personally back in 2010 and 2011 on the Ulu Tiram roads during the upgrading process. The contractors left the roads unpaved and unevenly paved, with exposed manholes.

Irda needs to seriously look into these areas as they are after all the “flagship agency” in charge of south Johor’s development.

As an agency, I see them as not having clear guidelines in ensuring public safety in their development plans. If they do, they have been negligent in enforcing them.

As a resident in Johor Baru myself, I’m not saying that accidents will not happen at all if the proper safety requirements are being met at construction areas.

However, much can be done to reduce the possibility of accidents, like the one Sharifudin experienced.

After all, it is the responsibility of the government and industry players to promote prevention of accidents at the working place.

 
 Sharifudin Mohd, 40, during his ordeal after falling into the hole at the Sungai Segget project construction site yesterday. — Pic by Gule Feewit
Sharifudin Mohd, 40, during his ordeal after falling into the hole at the Sungai Segget project construction site yesterday. — Pic by Gule Feewit

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