Of a forest reserve that still is… and other musings
8 March 2021 – Peter Leong, FoBK’s Treasurer, shared an op-ed on Malay Mail about the state of forest reserves in the context of the breaking news about Shah Alam Community Forest’s being legally a Permanent Forest Reserve.
While it may be slightly below the 300m ASL criteria that “counts for more” on hill/slope development guidelines, so too do other Klang Valley green lungs capped by not-particularly-tall peaks (eg. Bukit Kiara 270m, and Bukit Permatang Resam a.k.a. Unity Peak of Kota Damansara Community Forest 210m) — both afforded a high level of recognition and protection for 400 and 800 acres respectively.
This is a valuable read to have a glimpse of the complicated background of gazettement, equity and a suggestion for how we can move forward.
Together with our friends at TwentyTwo13, we will be crafting a series of articles across 2021 that shares the history and future of Bukit Kiara.
Written by FoBK president, Dr Kribanandan Gurusamy Naidu, the six articles will highlight various aspects of Taman Persekutuan Bukit Kiara including some history, the gazettement agenda, long term conservation and our planned FoBK activities.
Read them below here:
1. Years of Toil by Civil Society Resulted in Gazettement of Bukit Kiara Federal Park
The first article on TwentyTwo13 published in Jan 2021 shares the history of Bukit Kiara, from its roots as a rubber plantation from the Ng Chin Siu & Sons Rubber Estate Ltd, to its planned future as a public park and an arboretum in the style of Hyde Park in London.
The comprehensive article shares the abandoned plans for the stretch of land that currently covers the Damansara sewage treatment plant and the Muslim cemetery.
In 1993, the establishment of the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club on land meant for Pusara Negara signalled the full abandonment of the Taman Kiara Master Plan.
It also shares the long history of community engagement between Taman Tun Dr Ismail Residents Association, passionate activists, like-minded NGOs, member of parliament, and the public who have devoted much to the cause.
While the initial focus may have been on gazettement, since 2018, there has been a wider focus to include engagement on wider green lung advocacy issues together with other green lung community-based organisations, non-governmental organisations and the general public in the Klang Valley.
“In the first attempt of its kind in the Klang Valley, a successful roundtable discussed was hosted by FoBK in October 2018 which saw the coming together of 17 green lunch advocacy groups and representatives from the office of the Segambut MP to find a meaningful way forward.”
Published in March 2021, the third feature spotlights the uniqueness of flora and fauna of this beloved urban forest. With a variety of river sources, birds, insects and wildlife, it has become apparent that Bukit Kiara can potentially function as a living library of plants and animals that can be used for forest restoration and increasing biodiversity in the city.
Bukit Kiara is an example of how a deforested former rubber plantation can be restored into a forest or recreational land for public use.
Our climate leaders, grassroots activists, community leaders, artists, influencers, and the leaders of tomorrow will all come together to push us towards a better world and remind us of the theme of Earth Day 2021 i.e ‘Restore Our Earth’.
5. Bukit Kiara’s Public-Private Partnership Path to Sustainable Development
Published in May 2021, this article takes a holistic look at Bukit Kiara, reflecting on the tension of the public-private partnership that exists on this land. Despite news of Bukit Kiara being gazetted as a Federal Park on July 29 2020, the announcement only encompasses 110.8 hectares and there remains 51.4 hectacres that will hopefully be similarly gazetted by 2027.
What became of those major chunks outside of today’s 162.2-hectare Federal Park?
2020 was the year that kept the world figuratively and literally grounded. As movement was curtailed, it drew attention to public’s need for green spaces and the increasing urgency to protect them. Here is a recap of coverage of Bukit Kiara:
“Cool fresh air pervades the environment with the absence of vehicles emitting greenhouse gases and this pollution-free atmosphere is immediately felt as you commence the walk from the guardhouse.
How I wish many parts of Kuala Lumpur can be like Bukit Kiara –- in harmony with nature.”
Flip-Flop Decisions Over Bukit Kiara Opening
With the uncertainty of rules and SOPs surrounding the new normal, there was much discussion about the inconsistent standards of public park openings. Brain Martin in an op-ed in The Star, lamented how that had caused public confusion and frustration.
“Unlike every other park in Kuala Lumpur (there are 14), Bukit Kiara is managed by the National Landscape Department, so City Hall’s decision to open public parks does not apply here.
I find this confusing and perplexing. Either all parks are open or all parks should be shut. It does not make sense to have different rulings just because different government agencies manage the parks.”