Shaipudin Shah Harun: A cleaner, road-less future
Thursday, 30 August 2007 06:04am
©The Sun (Used by permission)
by Shaipudin Shah Harun
It's already 7.00 am. Still no sign of the boy. Children today have no sense of timing.
Maybe it’s just me. At 100-years-old, it’s difficult to get rid of old habits, easier still to blame someone else. I’ll wait a while. Good to have some time of your own. Come to think of it, that’s all I have now anyway. Lots of time.
The landscape has changed beyond recognition. I would have never imagined it such 50 years ago. Who would imagine that all the trees would come back and that all the roads would disappear?
Back then, the world was only going one way - downwards. Almost every possible piece of land had been converted to either buildings or roads with entire cities transformed into huge parking lots.
The word “greed” was redefined and everyone was making and selling cars like there was no tomorrow. Reminders by the sane few were treated with hilarious disdain.
Back then, I was running Prasarana, one of the few, I believe, who was trying to save the world from mass suicide by being voluntarily gassed by the billions of cars on the streets.
No one listened until, of course, the earth itself staged its own protest.
The day came when global warming no longer became just a fashionable pre-dinner conversation topic. Fed-up with all the abuses heaped on it, the earth decided to make a point by rearranging the world map.
In a matter of months, Manhattan became the “New Atlantis”, swallowed by a massive meltdown of the polar ice. Soon afterwards, Singapore became the “Atlantis of the East”. Of course, the Pacific Islanders had to learn post haste how to sail again just as their ancestors did in search for new homes.
In no time, 25% of the known world surface has disappeared beneath the waves. That certainly got everybody’s attention. In between the flurry of finger pointing and hand wringing, somehow everyone miraculously agreed that we had indeed overstepped the boundaries and something needed to be done fast.
It is amazing how solutions can be found when your very existence is being threatened. Everybody agreed that the first thing to do would be to address the fuel policy, not that there was much left to manage anyway.
In the last 25 years, except for the goatherds, everyone else has moved out of the Middle East and the once gleaming skyscrapers are fast competing with the pyramids as symbols of human arrogance and folly. The meagre ration of oil left has been earmarked for the most urgent needs which certainly does not include private transportation. They were banned practically overnight and public transport became a religion of sorts and these had to be run on clean fuel, i.e. nuclear generated electricity.
Now, you may wonder how the world survived this long without blowing itself to pieces with all that nuclear arsenal at hand. Well, it almost came to that.
After we lost Karachi and New Delhi in a frenzy of mutual nuclear destruction, everybody finally agreed that these were indeed dangerous toys. Now, nuclear energy is only preserved for peaceful use, including transportation.
Here I am now sitting at a city station, 150 km away from my farm, a journey of barely 30 minutes.
They call it High Capacity Highly Quiet people movers nowadays. Run on clean electricity and based on the levitation principle, these people movers reach almost every corner of the country, providing a fast and reliable form of transport.
Being levitated not only makes it quiet but also operationally efficient due to less wear and tear. Cars are things of the past, a nightmare best forgotten. All the roads have been dugged up and forests and rivers restored.
Now you may wonder how all of these were funded. Simply put, all the money and resources spent on roads and vehicles were diverted to public transport.
The beauty of it was that there was economy of scale. You need to build only a fraction of the infrastructure required because the trains are certainly more highly utilised than the cars. And guess what, the trains actually make money. Of course, absence of competition helps.
Here he comes, my youngest grandson.
They are restoring river systems reclaimed from some old roads. They say the fishing there is good, complete with the legendary kelah. Ok, it’s genetically-modified, but you can’t win them all.
How do you think I got to be 100 years old and yet still continue to have a good time with my grandson?
Shaipudin Shah Harun is executive director and chief executive officer of Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd.