Working with the masterminds of our cities

Working with the masterminds of our cities

By: Dr Yong Adilah Shamsul Harumain, TPr. Fahmi Alias

Town planner holds a crucial role in influencing the present and future of towns, cities and communities. The significance of a “Town Planner” or an “Urban Planner” is rooted in their capacity to conduct a diverse array of complex matters and obstacles pertaining to urban growth, sustainability, and the enhancement of quality of life.

Nonetheless, we believe that urban planning is a complex undertaking that involves various dimensions, including technical and political components. This also encompasses various diverse components such as transportation systems, infrastructure, environments, facilities and communications. Having said that, urban planning is an interdisciplinary field.

Urban planning can be considered a cross-disciplinary field due to the integration of various domains of knowledge and specialised skills. In order to effectively address the complicated issues pertaining to the planning, building, and governance of towns and cities, particularly after the pandemic, it is crucial to integrate various components.

The integration of an interdisciplinary approach is crucial in the advancement of towns and cities that exhibit a harmonious and sustainable existence. The phrase “planning” can be subject to various interpretations and holds significant importance across multiple professional fields. Planning is a comprehensive and all-encompassing process that is evident in various fields and manifests throughout every stage of human existence. The inherent complexity of the concept implies that planning is both comprehensive and intricate.

Urban planning is widely acknowledged as an interdisciplinary field that encompasses a range of disciplines, including social science, architecture, human geography, politics, engineering, and environmental sciences. The flash flood issues in Malaysia demand a multidisciplinary approach, making it one of the most significant concerns.

The incorporation of an interdisciplinary approach is crucial for addressing flash flood concerns in Malaysia, as it fosters the cooperation of specialists from various disciplines. This collaboration allows for the formulation of comprehensive strategies that effectively tackle the multiple factors contributing to the incidence of flash floods. Planning professionals perform a crucial role in mitigating the risks associated with flash floods by taking an active role in zoning and land-use development processes.

One potential approach to promote sustainable developments involves the implementation of various strategies, including the incorporation of green spaces, utilization of permeable pavements, and strategic floodplains to facilitate the absorption of floodwater. By assembling specialists from diverse fields, an interdisciplinary methodology can offer a more all-encompassing and efficient strategy for addressing the challenges associated with flash floods. This approach considers not only the physical factors that contribute to flash floods, but also the social, economic, and environmental aspects that are essential in mitigating the risk and minimizing the consequences of flash flood events in our country.

Over the past decades, Malaysia has emerged as a prominent figure in the region, showcasing remarkable development progress. It is anticipated that the Malaysia urban population will experience further growth in the coming years. By the year 2030, it is projected that urbanisation in Malaysia will reach a level of 80 percent.

Nevertheless, it is imperative to establish a more equitable and efficient approach to the development, which entails enhancing the connections between urban and rural areas. According to a statement released by the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DoSM), the projected population of Malaysia for the year 2023 is expected to reach 33.4 million, representing an increase from the previous year’s population of 32.7 million in 2022.

The national development planning system in Malaysia has been significant for enabling and implementing initiatives for development in the country. The imperative aspect of strategic policy implementation and the establishment of a comprehensive national planning framework are crucial factors in shaping the trajectory of development planning across different tiers, encompassing regional, state, and local levels.

Moreover, the Twelfth Malaysia Plan 2021-2025 acknowledges the necessity of enhancing urban development, planning, and prioritization across various sectors to achieve a fairer distribution of development.

Given the increasing urban population, a study conducted by the World Bank in 2020 suggests that Malaysia is on a path of experiencing a demographic transition marked by the phenomenon of population ageing. By employing multidisciplinary approaches under the direction of a town planner, it becomes feasible to foster urban settings that are more conducive to meeting the needs of the elderly demographic. Consequently, this can potentially improve their overall well-being and quality of life, while simultaneously yielding benefits for the wider society.

In order to enhance the collaboration between various disciplines in tackling the complexities posed by an ageing population, it is imperative to cultivate interdisciplinary cooperation and establish a conducive atmosphere that facilitates the incorporation of ageing-related factors into urban planning.

Urban planning encompasses a wide range of aspects pertaining to urban life, including the management of both new and existing land, buildings, roads, public spaces, transportation systems, economic growth, infrastructure, and environmental considerations, among various other factors. The complexity and difficulty arise from several challenges. Firstly, it pertains to the future, which inherently carries an element of uncertainty. Secondly, it involves intricate and interconnected political issues. Additionally, it entails the implementation of policies that often proves to be challenging.

The role of town planners or urban planners in Malaysia is undeniably crucial in shaping the current and future development of the country, irrespective of the terminology employed to describe their professional practise. The multifaceted role of urban planning professionals is widely recognised, encompassing responsibilities that surpass the boundaries of their specific discipline.

Their responsibilities encompass a range of tasks, including conducting research and analysis, making strategic decisions, considering architectural and building aspects, applying principles of urban design, engaging with the public and seeking their input, formulating policies and offering recommendations, and ultimately implementing and managing these policies. Certainly, we are the city’s masterminds.

In celebration of World Cities Day observed annually on 31 October, let us come together as a society to create awareness and advocate for the importance of town planners in shaping the future of our urban landscapes. Let us work hand in hand with these dedicated professionals, to ensure our cities evolve into sustainable, harmonious, and inclusive spaces for all.

Dr Yong Adilah Shamsul Harumain is a Senior Lecturer, and TPr. Fahmi Alias is an Adjunct Professor, at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Faculty of Built Environment, Universiti Malaya. They can be reached at [email protected]


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