The Mall Plague

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What is a mall?


Mall (/mɔːl/ or /mæl/) may refer to a shopping mall, a strip mall, or a pedestrian street or an esplanade (a long open area where people can walk, which is mall’s original meaning)

Amidst the rapid development of Malaysia’s architectural and civil infrastructures, shopping districts are no abnormality; it has become a necessity for the nation. The first Malaysian shopping mall was Ampang Park, built back in the 70’s. Open to the public on 15th March 1973, it rapidly became an epitome of convenience. Like any shopping malls, it had all a city dweller needs; grocery shops, apparel stores, and family restaurants.

It’s 2018 and things have changed drastically. Ampang Park was decommissioned and has been undergoing demolition works since 31st December 2017. When the news of its `pending demolition` broke out, Malaysians responded. Many were saddened and disgruntled with the decision, still some find it a relief.

Ever since malls came into place, its number has increased exponentially. Just this year alone, the development of eleven more shopping malls have been confirmed within Klang Valley. The number may seem relatively small, but throughout the year, back from 1973 up until 2018, there are roughly 130 malls that have been built in Selangor itself. Those are just the shopping malls as a building on its own. The number is higher if we include the ones built within residential buildings itself.

So, is this a problem? Are too many malls a bad thing? How many is too many? If it is a bad thing, why is it so?

The issues pertaining to the development of civil or architectural infrastructures can be subjective, as each has its own functions and purposes. The question that we ought to ask is, why are malls continue to be built?

This question has many answers. A simple one would be that malls are built to accommodate businesses, and bring citizens the complementary and pleasurable shopping experience, whilst providing the necessary level of convenience. That said, this is why we see some people enjoy going to the mall, and still, some are reluctant to go to malls, as it adds nothing to the betterment of their health and wellness.

Let’s take Shah Alam as an example. A not-too-small suburb with approximately 250,000 people (and increasing), living in area no bigger than 2,200 square kilometres. According to Google, there are currently eleven malls in this city. Each one of the malls here seems to serve the same purpose, the same community; to provide convenience.

Even with our current dwindling economy, the city council still approved the development of yet another megamall, at i-City, Shah Alam. Yet another place where you can continue to spend money; no worries about the current critical state of the environment or other local community or global issues as it has nothing to do with building a mall, right?

Seriously, with eleven malls already (plus one currently on the way), why exactly do we need more malls?

Even though there may still be land area to further construct another mall here, the city does not necessarily need another one. Besides, we have other large, high-end malls that are situated in nearby vicinities, around Subang, Petaling Jaya, Damansara, and Kuala Lumpur.

As far as the developers are concern, my guess is that this is just another promising business opportunity. The deal of constructing a building in general are between the state government and the developers. If it means profit to both parties, then it’s a win-win situation.

At the other end of the spectrum, what do we, as citizens, really gain from having another mall?

Well, it’s definitely convenient for ‘high schoolers’ to hang out when they skip class, and play games to their hearts content! For the rest of us, we can go through the chaotic traffic and get a parking spot at the mall after a horrendous two hours journey, just to hang out with our friends. Yeah, sure, seems like the ideal plan for the weekend. Malls can also be considered a tourist attraction in some cases, but then again, quite a few malls are the reason for congested roads, and a hole in your pocket, an unhealthy lifestyle overall.

Without a doubt, the existence of each and every mall has its own benefits and issues. Each does not necessarily provide all the necessities that everyone needs.

Frankly, I would like something else in our city. Other developments that focus on health, wellness and most importantly, the environment. Developing bigger malls and adding on to its numbers, does not help these causes.

What can we do?

Nothing much actually. The development of buildings is proposed by developers and approved by the state government. One and only logical and civilized way is to set-up a petition. Like any other democratic country, the people have the right to voice out their thoughts and opinion. Moreover, malls or any shopping district, may not be what we want for ourselves and our children in the end.

I suspect many other people, like myself, are beginning to be sick and tired of the constant development of shopping malls. I hope future developments would be more environmentally sustainable and pollution-free oriented.

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Zafran Azhar

The introvert