KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 ― The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) has once again called for the government to gazette Bukit Persekutuan here as a green lung and heritage site, a proposal it once made in 2008.
In an open letter today, MNS suggested this time around that the authorities look into preserving the 70-hectare Bukit Persekutuan or Federal Hill as a world-class conservation showcase, one that could be placed on par with Hyde Park in London and Central Park in New York.
“MNS proposes that Bukit Persekutuan be formally gazetted, and turned into a world-class conservation, recreational, heritage site, that also contributes to the goals of the Kuala Lumpur Low-Carbon Society Blueprint for 2030.
“This conservation initiative would take the Kuala Lumpur city a long way forward at little cost,” said its adviser Tan Sri Salleh Mohd Nor.
This is not the first of MNS' calls for the government to consider gazetting Bukit Persekutuan as a green lung to prevent it from being overtaken by development projects.
Especially since plans for a mega property development by government-linked SP Setia Berhad surfaced in 2012 which acquired a 20-hectare plot of government land there in a land swap deal in 2012.
Should these mega development projects get pushed through, this could also spell the demolition of MNS' headquarters, a building that traces its age back to 1921 located on Jalan Kelantan.
For those who do not remember anymore, Federal Hill is a historical site that is synonymous and complements the nearby historical sites pertaining to the country’s independence like the National Monument, Dataran Merdeka, Parliament House and the Merdeka Stadium.
The hill, located opposite the KL Sentral development in Brickfields and borders the Lake Gardens, was opened in 1896 as a government residential area, with bungalows for senior officers of the Federated Malay States.
In 1952 the housing scheme was expanded and the whole area officially named Federal Hill (now renamed Bukit Persekutuan) in commemoration of the Federation of Malaya in 1948.
Today, the roads that wind through the hill ― Jalan Persekutuan, Jalan Selangor, Jalan Negri Sembilan, Jalah Kedah, Jalan Kelantan, Jalan Terengganu, Jalan Johor and Jalan Perlis ― may be only familiar to motorists as an alternative to beat the heavy traffic on Jalan Mahameru.
“But behind these names, the concept of 'Federal Hill' commemorates the formation of the Federation of Malaya in 1948, which led to Malaysia’s independence on 31 August 1957,” said Salleh.
The roads were named after seven of the Malayan states ― Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu, Johor and Perlis ― as there were streets in Kuala Lumpur already named after the other four states.
“The call to gazette Bukit Persekutuan is also in-line with the Prime Minister’s proposal to plant 100 million trees throughout Malaysia, the gazettement of 274.3 acres of Bukit Kiara Federal Park and recently when the Court of Appeal quashed a 2017 development order that impinged on Taman Rimba Kiara as a green lung.
“The gazettement of Bukit Persekutuan would be in line with these progressive green developments,” Salleh said.
He also said the natural development of Bukit Persekutuan could go further as an extension of forest park network linking the Lake Gardens, Taman Tugu, butterfly and bird parks as well as Carcosa Seri Negara and Dataran Merdeka.
Forest in the city
Over the years MNS has also created five walking and educational trails at the Urban Community Forest (UCF) of Bukit Persekutuan ― Heritage, Thurnbergia, Jungle Fowl, Cempedak and Pulai trails have been activelyused for recreational and educational purposes by schools, local Bangsar and Bukit Bandaraya residents.
“The UCF of Bukit Persekutuan is an important carbon sink acting as a clean air filter, and a natural bio-cooling system that moderates urban heat as temperatures rise with climate change.
“Given that the highest elevation is 110m above sea level, Bukit Persekutuan should be formally recognised as 'hill land'.
“The UCF which is a matured secondary forest protects adjacent areas from rapid rainfall run off and flooding, erosion and landslides, particularly in cases of inappropriate development.
Sungai Bras-Bras situated behind MNS headquarters at Bukit Persekutuan, has never dried up,” said Salleh.
He also pointed out that it is the only spring water site out of all the centres identified as part of the River of Life project and recognised as one of the few natural springs situated in a capital city of the country.
“The stream helps to mitigate drought on the hill itself and enhances the cooling effect on Kuala Lumpur's surrounding city,” he added.
At the same time, Bukit Persekutuan still houses three royal households Istana Hinggap (satellite palaces) for Kedah, Negri Sembilan and Perak.
“The MNS looks forward to a positive response to our appeal to gazette Bukit Persekutuan.
“This would represent a mammoth step towards a more liveable garden, heritage city, pride and jewel of Kuala Lumpur,” said Salleh.