Taiping’s sustainable Jalan Berek initiative can set tone in preservation, development of historical town

Ensuring cleanliness, promoting tourism, and spurring the local economy.

Those were the three main key points shared by Taiping Municipal Council (MPT) president Khairul Amir Mohamad Zubir in his speech during the launch of the Jejak Budaya @ Jalan Berek – better known as Barrack Road – on Sept 23.

Banks, clinics, eateries, and one of Taiping’s famous cendol shops, line up Barrack Road. It is located a row behind the equally famous Jalan Stesen, where the nation’s first rest house (Taiping Rest House) was built in 1894.

Last Saturday’s event was actually the third consecutive programme to turn Jalan Berek into a modern, vibrant and sustainable enclave. The first Jom Plog @ Jalan Berek was held in 2021, while the second instalment was  the Cultural and Arts Carnival Karnival @ Jalan Berek, a year later.

“Turning Jalan Berek sustainable is an important move for MPT to encourage those in the area to care for cleanliness. This programme aims to encourage traders and hawkers in other parts of Taiping to also take part in a similar cause,” said Khairul Amir.

“This programme also aims to promote Jalan Berek, especially among tourists. Ahead of Visit Perak Year 2024, we would like to stress that Jalan Berek is a special location in Taiping, seen nowhere else, in other streets, in this town.”

He added there had been an abundance of new opportunities for the traders in the area since the sustainable programmes at Jalan Berek were introduced in 2021, adding that there had been an increase in the number of tourists to the town. He added that the focus on Jalan Berek had resulted in locals and outsiders helping the traders strengthen their business network.

Khairul Amir, however, did not provide any statistics or numbers.

The five elements in turning Jalan Berek sustainable are cleanliness, cheerfulness, tidiness, greenness, and safety.

The attention on Jalan Berek is not new. Even politicians have used Jalan Berek as part of their election campaigns.

In the last general election, Taiping-born Neow Choo Seong, a former diplomat, revealed plans to transform Jalan Berek into a heritage street, similar to Jonker Street in Melaka, for local businesses to thrive. The MCA man, who was contesting for the Taiping Parliamentary seat, however, lost in the Nov 19 polls.

Locals may take such pledges and MPT’s initiatives with a pinch of salt. Issues with garbage collection, clogged drains, and empty plots of land that attract snakes and even wild boars, continue to plague residents.

Money, rather the lack of it, remains MPT’s biggest hurdle in beautifying the town, while the red tape involved in the ownership of the over-century-old structures in Taiping had resulted in abandoned and dilapidated buildings, all with interesting tales to tell.

The local council is fully aware of these problems. It now needs to convince the decision-makers at the state level to start paying more attention to the iconic town as it turns 150, next year.

In order to do so, MPT needs to ensure that its Jalan Berek sustainable programme brings about the right results, with data that will convince the stakeholders that it is worthwhile to invest in Taiping, and give locals, especially youths, a good reason to stay.

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