On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Gazette the city’s green lung now

In 2006, the Government agreed to gazette 189ha as a permanent green area, as part of the Kuala Lumpur Master Plan but until now, nothing has happened.

There is always the worry that greedy developers can use their connections to get a small slice of the land. So, can the regular Bukit Kiara visitors be blamed if they have doubts over the sincerity of the authorities in wanting to push for a permanent end to their anxiety.

This is the biggest green lung for city folks living in Petaling Jaya and Taman Tun Dr Ismail. Why shouldn’t they be concerned when they hear stories that parcels of land are said to be privately owned. The fears that this land would be commercialised are justified.

Yes, we have seen how foreigners have encroached into Bukit Kiara to illegally tap the old rubber trees on the hill.

The demarcation, with the construction of a 3.5m high fence along a 4.7km stretch of Bukit Kiara, is good if there are legitimate security reasons.

But not when 3,000 trees were also felled as a result of this exercise. This writer hopes these numbers are not accurate but when bulldozers make their way into the jungle, it is unlikely to instil much confidence even when signs are put up to explain the ongoing fence exercise.

Many former ministers, including former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and former MCA president Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting, are regular visitors to the park.

They have enjoyed their regular walks there and certainly, like many other joggers, they can see the joy and sincerity of the Friends of Bukit Kiara.

There’s no politics here. It is just a group of multi-racial Malaysians and expatriates who love nature and are committed to wanting to protect what is left of nature in a concrete jungle.

It is like a piece of precious gem which the ordinary people want to hold on to desperately against mindless housing development.

We do not want to see cement paths being laid and new trees being planted after the mature trees have been felled. And certainly we do not need a refreshment kiosk being set up. I hope the Malaysian Nature Society has erred in this claim or, at least, been wrongly reported by the media.

But what is clear is that the authorities, even before they embark on the fence building project, should consult environmental groups like MNS for advice on how to build in such an ecologically sensitive spot.

There are many qualified people in MNS and other NGOs who could offer suggestions and advice; let us also not forget that over the years, it has been the park users themselves who have helped maintain the park. They are the ones who have repaired the nature trails and kept the park clean.

The users can see for themselves that the road and fence have already led to massive earthworks that threaten the pristine water body in the heart of the park and all points downstream along Sungai Ulu Pencala.

The MNS has also highlighted other questionable aspects of the development plan, including the proposal to set aside part of the park for the planting of high-value commercial crops, such as cinnamon, tongkat ali and agarwood trees.

Part of the park had been zoned out to be planted with African and South American trees.

“It is hard to see the point of these initiatives which threaten to displace local indigenous species that are the natural and rightful flora and fauna of Bukit Kiara,” MNS president Prof Dr Maketab Mohamed was quoted in a news report.

Indeed. It is strange that our local authorities still look out for trees from other parts of the world instead of concentrating on our own species. The landscape people seem to only look at aesthetic aspects rather than weigh the consequences of introducing alien species into the country.

In the quest for development, we must not forget that the natural heritage God has blessed us with cannot be replaced by even the most sustainable, green structures that may come up. True, there will always be demand for homes amidst the hills, but the price others have to pay will definitely be more than what the homeowner pays.

The problem has always been that local authorities and developers prefer not to see beyond what their eyes can see. Certainly, they would rather feign ignorance that flooding problems far away are not a direct result of the destruction of hills that are natural sponges to control the flow of water.

The people who use Bukit Kiara have spoken out. They have even gone on a walk to highlight their grievances.

They see themselves as stakeholders and they want their voices to be heard, respected and taken into account, in the plans of the city fathers. Those who speak up are moderates and certainly not anti-development.

No one deserves to be belittled or threatened by any politician because of our concerns against encroachment to our hills or green lungs. It is WE who put them there. They should be thankful to us and not the other way around.

We do not care whether they are the state or federal governments, and we do not care whether they are in the Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat. They should listen to us.