KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 ― Caught by surprise and worried about potential landslides, residents of Bangsar's Taman Weng Lock came together yesterday to launch a petition drive against a proposed community park on a hillslope above their neighbourhood.
At a briefing to residents last night, architect Kevin Mark Low spoke of the numerous problems that the project named Kebun-Kebun Bangsar could cause the Taman Weng Lock community. This includes drainage concerns, and increased traffic in the already-congested area.
“Contrary to what the park proposal says, 'lightly touching the land', no hillside slope development especially a park can do that, simply because in order to grow crops, vegetables or nice flowers, you need to remove all that lallang to expose all that topsoil,” said the Jalan Riong Rukun Tetangga committee member, adding that the project would likely require the use of machinery to cut and terrace the slopes.
“This is the worst possible thing because lallang is the best form of surface water control, it's very thick so it slows the water down and because lallang roots lift the soil up, it creates very permeable conditions for surface drainage.
“But at the end of every monsoon or halfway through it, the drains are almost flowing over. Any land hillside development that you begin to do anything on, even if it's a park it will mean reduced surface water absorption, which means all the water is going to our drains... that was the initial worry for me, surface water drainage, what if a landslide happens?” asked Low, who has been a resident in the neighbourhood for about 15 years.
“Don't get me wrong, we all love the idea of a park, we are talking about the wrong siting of the park, not the idea of the park... it's a lovely idea. We can work together to find an alternative site, I'll be glad to help with that,” he said, also noting that the grass-covered Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) reserve ― which is the proposed site for the park ― was already acting as a natural green lung to the neighbourhood.
Some of the residents at the briefing yesterday said they were not informed about the project and only discovered it a few months ago after approval from local authorities had been obtained, while others urged for the hillslope to be left alone.
Cougar Lee, 45, whose house at Lorong Kurau lies directly below the hillslope, voiced his fears that the retention wall behind his house would collapse if the work for the proposed park is carried out.
“I stay below your park, if you do any construction, what will happen to me? Before construction, now already the water is flowing like hell there,” he said during the briefing yesterday to a member of the Kebun-Kebun Bangsar team who was present. “I don't want the hill to destroy my house.”
Lee, who has lived in the neighbourhood for 40 years and faced this problem for at least 10 years, told Malay Mail Online that he had to build a retention wall about four feet behind his house and a big drain with two 12-inch pipes to divert the hill slope's gushing water away from his house to another drain.
Susan Foong, a resident in the neighbourhood since 1960, said she was very shocked and surprised when she found out about the proposed project on the hillslope.
“The whole neighbourhood is in the dark. You should have had a meeting and gathered the residents together whether they stay at the boundary or off the boundary... we have every right to know what is happening before this thing becomes official,” she said during the briefing yesterday to a member of the Kebun-Kebun Bangsar group.
“Now I live at the corner house, below the hillslope. Now these few days, the rain has been washing down a lot of mud even though you don't disturb it, and I have been scraping every morning along the whole drain, along the garden compound. So I'm actually very concerned we are living in a valley,” the Jalan Bilis resident said.
“Don't disturb all these places,” she said, noting that a landslide had previously occurred near Jalan Tenggiri, another road below the hillslope.
J. Suresh, whose family has stayed at Jalan Tenggiri for more than 20 years and is part of the Rukun Tetangga committee, spoke of the soil erosion problems at the fragile hillslope above the neighbourhood.
“Actually this problem 12 years ago when it started... DBKL tried to fix it, soon after they fix it, less than one week it eroded again, then they build retaining wall, not even tall enough, less than four feet, then it was dry season. Then it was rainy season again in 2014, another erosion, actually that went through the transmission line, [people] had to come in and clear,” he said when describing the erosions along the hillslope behind Jalan Tenggiri, with the same hill located next to the proposed park.
He also spoke of a recent “major landslide” behind a house on the same street in the neighbourhood, which DBKL could not clear due to the rain and which is currently covered with a canvas sheet.
Akmal Azfar, 28, a volunteer in charge of outreach for Kebun-Kebun Bangsar, told the residents yesterday that they had already spoken to residents most directly affected by the project and will be meeting the second-degree stakeholders or those whose houses are 250 metres away from the hillslope.
Akmal also explained that the land belonged to TNB, with the title currently held by the Kuala Lumpur mayor, adding that the team behind Kebun-Kebun Bangsar applied for approval from the authorities three years ago and is currently a partner of the project that he said is under Kuala Lumpur City Hall's (DBKL) Local Agenda 21 (LA21) unit.
He said the project was not for a park but a gated garden and farm that would produce food for the needy and homeless and allow children exposure to planting, prompting Lee to question the exact nature of the project and if it was intended to be private or a public place for the community.
Akmal said that he was only present as a resident and could not speak for the group, but said Kebun-Kebun Bangsar will arrange for a meeting soon for residents together with DBKL, DBKL's LA 21 unit, DBKL's engineering department, TNB and its engineers, and the group's farming experts.
Residents requested that the Kebun-Kebun Bangsar group refrain from starting work on the hillslope for now.
In a May 28 post on Kebun-Kebun Bangsar's Facebook page, the project's team appealed to the public for funds to build an “11.5 acres community park-farm in Bangsar on a piece of TNB reserve” which it said it was finally getting the necessary approvals after working on this plan for the last three years.
The project team also said that it hopes to be on site in early July 2016 to start work on the park-farm that it said “will be fully funded, designed and managed by our community.”
According to Jalan Riong Rukun Tetangga treasurer Victor Low, there are around 150 households in Taman Weng Lock, with 82 signatures for the petition drive collected yesterday.
Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah was also present at the briefing at the invitation of the Rukun Tetangga committee, but the key proponent behind the Kebun-Kebun Bangsar project did not show up despite being invited.