Safety nets, concrete slabs, and a change of culture

Hafidz Baharom

AS with the deaths in the tahfiz school arson, we were surprised last week when a 15-year-old boy died at the Seri Pantai People’s Housing Project (PPR). Why?

Because an irresponsible litterbug decided it was acceptable to just throw a chair from a high floor, and it struck S Sathiswaran. This case is currently being investigated by the police as murder.

In the meantime, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has been proposing urgent solutions to avoid this incident from happening again. Among the solutions were safety nets. Once that was seen as “difficult to maintain”, they have now moved on to proposing concrete slabs.

This sounds safe, yes?

Sure, it does sound safe when you think of people throwing perhaps a cigarette butt (seriously guys, use an ashtray) or plastic wrappers for candy, chocolates, maybe even when they just dump out water from their laundry.

But what if they throw a fridge from the 13th floor? Yes, this actually happened – on August 16, 2017.

According to the report, this incident at Kondo Rakyat Desa Pantai in Pantai Dalam involved a man in his twenties who is a mental patient. The fridge hit a few motorcycles which were damaged.

So, let’s consider this – someone throws a fridge from the 13th floor, damaging motorcycles eight months ago – and DBKL did nothing? They waited for a 15-year-old to die getting hit by a chair?

As curious as I am over which would win – a safety net, a concrete slab or even zinc or metal roofing over walkways, versus a fridge thrown out from the highest floor in the building – let’s not try that experiment in real life.

Let us ask why those staying in PPRs throw trash right out their balcony. Interestingly enough, this question was covered by a recent media report which stated that the problem lay in the elevators. According to a resident, the elevators are sometimes broken down while heading to the ground floor, leading to those staying in upper floors to just give up on using it entirely.

Another reason related to elevators is that because there are too many people and too few elevators, resident just leave their trash in walkway for others to clean it.

All of this does not address the biggest issue when it comes to living in apartment complexes regardless of the PPR, or Kondo Rakyat, or even high-end properties and condominiums – not only do we have litterbugs, but we also have not so dedicated people.

The report mentions that even at Gateway Kiaramas in Mont Kiara, some people leave their trash outside the trash room, because apparently “when they open the trash room, it reeks”.

At this point, let’s pause for a while and let this sink in, while I do a very, very long facepalm.

I’m just imagining if there are apartment complexes which charge exorbitant maintenance fees to have a guy, standing right outside the trash room, spraying the trash with Chanel No 5 or Acqua Di Parma to avoid the smell of reeking trash.

Or maybe less exorbitant maintenance fees with someone just spraying Febreeze. Or maybe making the residents deodorise their trash to avoid a reeking trash room as a regulation.

 And then sending random residents warning letters for dumping stinky trash.

Yes, this went from serious to hilarious in 500 words, but it highlights an issue that is important for all of us living in high-rises, rich or poor, urban or suburban. We are really not dedicated to some simple menial tasks like taking out the trash.

For some, we are too busy, for others, we are too tired. And for some, we do not want to trouble others in an elevator, so we will just trouble others by leaving it in the walkway.

For the PPRs, we should introduce trash chutes or even have a garbage can or even a large bin on each floor to be collected by a management company. If this is too expensive, maybe have a rotation schedule among each unit on respective floors to take down the trash.

But more than this, we need to also have a brutally honest conversation about our mentality. We’re litterbugs. Even living in Damansara Perdana, I do deal with sweet wrappers and the odd cigarette butt.

We need to stop the littering culture altogether. For myself, I’m not so optimistic. I’m still struggling to even get the guys I chat with at the mamak to use the ashtray rather than the floor. – January 26, 2018.

* Hafidz loves to ruffle feathers and believes in the EA Games tag line of challenging everything. Most times, he represents the Devil’s Advocate on multiple issues.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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