MARCH 27 — The lights across Kuala Lumpur and major cities in Malaysia were recently switched off for 60 minutes to honour Earth Hour, putting Malaysia on par with major cities across the world that honoured Mother Nature and that have pledged to keep their cities sustainable with a noble show of sustainable solidarity.
Yet, beneath this purposeful blackout lies a darker truth about Kuala Lumpur city and its real stance on saving our fragile planet.
Driven by an unquenchable thirst for profit and pledges of returns on investment to shareholders, property developers have started to get creative in convincing city councils to allow the development of high density properties on and around public green spaces.
In TTDI, property giant Malton Group Bhd through its subsidiary Memang Perkasa Sdn Bhd has convinced the city council and apparently the judiciary that it is acceptable to encroach into a lush public green space (gazetted in KL Structure Plan 2020) called Taman Rimba Kiara and build nine blocks of luxury 54-storey condominiums as long as they pledge to build 350 units of affordable housing for longhouse dwellers living close to the park and in return, receive the right to build 2,200 units of luxury condominiums.
Would you think mature cities like New York, London, Paris or Singapore would ever allow any of their lush green spaces to be developed into high density luxury high rise properties?
Imagine Malton building the same size development on Central Park in New York or Hyde Park in London? If they could, they would!
Would that be approved? Not a chance. Why?
Mayors, councillors, governments, property developers and the populace in more mature nations have integrity and do understand the importance of maintaining a city’s green lung.
Having travelled and lived abroad, I have seen how and learnt why both the public and private sector are on the same page with regards to judiciously saving their green lungs.
These cities acknowledge the critical need to maintain existing green lungs:
1. To sequester air, noise and visual pollution and provide a natural living breathing space for its concrete jungle dwellers where (relatively) fresh air can be inhaled. Yes, nine blocks of 54-storey luxury condos will certainly take the existing ratio of 60 persons per acre to 979 persons per acre and this would increase air and noise pollution as the wealthy owners would definitely not be taking the MRT and hence for a family of four, there would be no less than four cars per apartment unit (x 2,200 units). Let’s not even try to imagine the visual pollution that nine blocks of 54-storey condos will create against the low rise vista of TTDI (completely dwarfing the 30-storey Sinaran TTDI condo nearby)!
2. To provide a safe open space where human beings can expand their energy and lungs in all forms of exercise and recreational activities. Ever notice how obesity is creeping up on Malaysians and why recreational public spaces are absolutely critical.
3. To provide a sanctuary for the human mind to rest, relax and recharge. High pressure urban living is one of the main causes of stress that lead both to mental health and physical health issues. In this digital age where humans live like hamsters spinning endlessly on their wheel of life, open spaces are critical for the mental health of millions of Malaysians who are not wealthy enough to own luxury Malton properties. (Life’s irony is where developers like Malton rob the not-so wealthy of access to natural parks to sell condos to the wealthy who spend time in Hyde Park where they own other properties.)
4. To landscape their parks with the right flora to bring the fauna back to the cities. For a city-park, Taman Rimba Kiara is home to an amazing collection of mature flora which attracts a wide range of wildlife including hornbills. This is priceless and a potential domestic and international tourist drawcard.
Many believe this Malton project in TTDI represents a landmark case as the moment one developer manages to bulldoze its way to build on gazetted green spaces, many others will most certainly follow suit as profits usually come before Mother Nature.
In contrast 20 years ago, a more sustainability-savvy developer took a large piece of greenery (The Selangor Turf Club) where the wealthy once betted on race horses and turned it into the globally recognised iconic landmark Petronas Twin Towers and turned an exclusive race course to one of the most beautiful public green spaces.
Perhaps Malton could consider using its wherewithal to enhance Taman Rimba Kiara by working with the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia and turn the space into a modest version of London’s Kew Gardens that is an ode to Mother Nature for generations to appreciate.
In return, request a landswap of other city council properties to build their luxury condos. This way, all stakeholders benefit and Malton’s pledge for sustainability becomes a true legacy for all to share.
I recently gave a keynote speech to 1,000 kids at an international school in conjunction with their Earth Day Celebration and inspired these young ones to stand up and do something to save the planet they will inherit.
Sadly, as an adult, I felt uninspired after the talk as the Malton-Taman Rimba Kiara issue began to look like a forgone conclusion as how could the public win against a public-listed company armed with billions and teams of top notch lawyers and PR practitioners.
As Al Gore asked politicians and businessmen “What were you thinking?!” in his recent climate change movie An Inconvenient Sequel – Truth to Power, I ask the same of Malton’s shareholders.
Sadly, I can already hear the answer “Who cares!”
Perhaps the unlikely saviour could be the city council? DBKL being the gatekeepers of these precious (and fast disappearing) green spaces could do the famous “Maradona Hand of God” act and save Taman Rima Kiara.
That would make DBKL a true champion in sustainability and an overnight Hero to Malaysians.
God knows that our beautiful planet needs more Heroes.
This is a pretty sad state of affairs for the nation and for KL in particular as our city has just made the list of Forbes’ “Surprising Top 10 List Of Best Places To Retire Abroad”.
Speaking to foreigners who chose KL as their second home, they say the Malton-Taman Rimba Kiara issue is something they will be watching closely as the outcome reflects the integrity of the approving authorities, the judiciary and the developers as this, according to them, would never even come to light in their home countries as green public spaces are sacrosanct, period!
When will we ever learn?
*This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.