Kuala Lumpur (Sept 28): Over 1,000 people showed up bright and early to take part in a peaceful walk today in yet another effort to call on the authorities to protect the Bukit Kiara park.
Regular visitors of one of the largest green lungs in Kuala Lumpur showed up as early as 6.30am to march up the hill at Taman Tun Dr Ismail, although the official starting time was only 8am.
The walk, organised by the NGO coalition Friends of Bukit Kiara, started from the Bangunan Bakti Siti Hasmah Building towards the Bukit Kiara jogging trail’s crosswalk, and ended with a tai chi performance by instructor David Bao. The walk was held to protest the perimeter fencing on Bukit Kiara and any development on the park, and to call for the immediate gazetting of 466.86 acres of the hill designated by the Cabinet in 2007 as a public forest park.
The Ministry of Housing, Local Government and Urban Well-being has said that the entire park will comprise four parcels, namely Lot 480589, Lot 54265, Lot 54268 and Lot 54266. The first lot is an amalgamation of three parcels, namely Lot 54267, Lot 54269 and Lot 54270.
Meanwhile, the government is currently sorting out issues related to the leases on Lot 54265 and Lot 54268, which are currently leased to MEASAT Satellite Systems Sdn Bhd.
The National Landscape Department has erected a 4m fence around Lot 52314 to demarcate the park and separate it from Berjaya Corporation Bhd’s Bukit Kiara Equestrian Club, following a High Court ruling last year which declared that Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) had entered into some sort of lease agreement with the club over the 62.57-acre parcel.
The ministry says the fencing was put for security purposes and to deter illegal rubber-tapping in the area, as well as to expedite the transformation of the entire park into a world-class arboretum.
However, NGOs are concerned that the fence is a sign that development will take place on BKRB’s lot, which is currently used as a polo field.
According to sources, DBKL has rejected Berjaya’s plans to develop a mixed-use project at their club, but DBKL has not confirmed the report. Residents of Taman Tun Dr Ismail, conservationists and visitors to the green lung took part in similar walks in March this year and July last year.
Huge support : Participants in a show of unity before the start of the peaceful protest walk.
More than 2,000 people turned up for the third peaceful protest walk up Bukit Kiara on Saturday morning, as a show of disapproval over the National Landscape Department’s (JLN) decision to continue with a perimeter fencing project.
The construction of the 3.5m perimeter fencing to demarcate the area, spanning 4.7km, began in June last year.
During the course of construction, an estimated 3,000 mature trees were felled and trails were damaged, among other things.
The massive earthworks had also caused harm to the pristine water body in the heart of the park and all its points downstream.
Following a public outcry, the 80%-completed project was brought to a halt by then Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung on July 31 last year.
Chor had also promised to consult the stakeholders before proceeding with any construction in Bukit Kiara. However, JLN recently decided to continue the fencing project.
Friends of Bukit Kiara (FoBK) chairman Liew Khooi Cheng said JLN’s move was against the Government’s promise.
“We want Bukit Kiara to be left as it is. We were shocked to receive a letter from JLN dated Aug 26 informing us of its decision to continue building the fence. We replied with a letter of disapproval, stating a request to take down the fence that was of no use, but there was no reply.
“JLN had said earlier that one of its objectives for the project was to prevent encroachment. If so, we suspect some of the neighbouring buildings have encroached into Bukit Kiara and asked that JLN to investigate the matter but nothing was done.
“The fence has failed to prevent the illegal rubber tappers as they continue to infiltrate Bukit Kiara,” he said.
Cycling for Mother Nature: A group by mountain bikers ready to take on Bukit Kiara during the protest walk.
Mountain biker Mushdi Mustafa, who has been cycling in Bukit Kiara since 1988, said the hills were slowly shrinking due to the surrounding developments.
“Before it would take me almost eight hours to ride across the trails of Bukit Kiara. Nowadays, I can finish a course in less than two hours. Many of the trails have also been blocked by the fencing, reducing my options.
“However, my main concern is the animals, especially the young monkeys which might not be able to get past the high fencing. We are disturbing their habitat. The fencing should not be there and is marring the area,” he said.
Another protester, Joanne Yoong, said the authorities should listen to the people.
“Action should be taken for every complaint. Thousands of people are against building the fence but the project still continues.
“Don’t the people’s voice matter? Also, promises must be kept.
“I have been coming here for the past 43 years. Back then, the area was much greener with a large flat land at the foothills, ideal for those with ailments such as arthritis as well as the wheelchair-bound,” she said.
Liew Khooi Cheng
Her friend, Jessica Phang, said JLN was setting a bad example.
“If the authorities cannot keep their promises, the young will grow up to think that they can get away with anything,” she said.
For Sue Hong from Mont Kiara, who participated in the walk for the first time with her mother and son, said it was sad to see green lungs slowly being eaten up in the name of development.
“I lived in Singapore for more than a year. A place like Bukit Kiara will be treated like a jewel there and I cannot understand why the authorities cannot see this. At the rate land is being cleared, I doubt the future generations will see these natural treasures.
“Even in my neighbourhood, a big plot of land is being cleared to build a bungalow on the hill. Many mature trees were felled and it makes me very sad. That is why I am here today,” she said.
Malaysian Nature Society vice-president Henry Goh said more than 600 signatures were collected , totalling almost 18,000, for the petition calling on the authorities to leave Bukit Kiara as it is.
“The destruction of Bukit Kiara’s bio-diversity and eco-system will contribute to warmer climate and discomfort for the public at large.
“Any drastic disturbance to the water source in Bukit Kiara is likely to have a wider effect downstream along Sungai Penchala.
“Due consideration should be given to all potential environmental impact studies conducted before embarking on large-scale projects, ” he said.
Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng was also present to support the cause.
Calvin & Hobbes spotted crossing the Sungai in Bukit Kiara ! #SaveBukitKiara
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Another Long Saga In Bukit Kiara by Lam Jian Wyn, The Edge
It was not just another walk in the park for 28 participants of Malaysian Nature Society’s inaugural (MNS) “Walk with Nature at Bukit Kiara” programme.
Led by Selangor MNS Flora Group head botanist Lim Koon Hup, the participants were briefed on the flora and fauna found along the walk.
“The participants were very inquisitive throughout the walk as they did not know much about even the common plants and trees.
“It is not only interesting to learn about the greenery but also the role they play in the eco-system and how it benefits people and animals,” he said.
Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng, who also took part in the walk, signed a green pledge to help expedite the gazetting of Bukit Kiara.
MNS vice-president Henry Goh said the objective of the walk was to highlight the importance of maintaining the bio-diversity for present and future generations to enjoy.
“We also want to ensure green lungs are preserved to off-set and absorb the ever-increasing carbon emissions due to development. It is important to have a healthy balance between development and conservation of our depleting national forests.
“In 2007, the Cabinet agreed to gazette 189ha of Bukit Kiara as a public park. Several ministers and top government officers have also made statements to this effect. However, it is puzzling that despite all the assurances, nothing has been done for the last six years.
“The Friends of Bukit Kiara and its coalition partners comprising NGOs and RAs have over the years, written and also held meetings with the relevant authorities and government agencies but nothing concrete has materialised,” he said.
Goh said as the turnout was good, MNS will organise more walks into Bukit Kiara to showcase the many “nature treasures” which could still be discovered within Bukit Kiara.
Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) resident Fariza A. Jalil said she was mesmerised with what nature has to offer in Bukit Kiara.
“The authorities must gazette Bukit Kiara fast or else more destruction might take place. It is a threat to the environment and where will the animals go? It will be very sad to see all the beautiful flora and fauna slowly fade away,” she said.
Another resident, Rahmat Hussien, who has been visiting the park for over 30 years, said he had never explored the trails.
“I never knew that Bukit Kiara has a natural treasure trove. The flora and fauna found here are very beautiful and picture- perfect,” said the avid photographer who came with his friend Harinto Rashid to take photographs in the park.
Katie Low from Australia, who is visiting a relative here, also joined in the walk after hearing about it.
“It is a good way to spend a Sunday morning,” she said.
After the walk, several participants also helped to plant trees in the park.
Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, congratulations on your appointment as the new Federal Territories minister. Friends of Bukit Kiara (FoBK) and our affiliated bodies welcome your statement that one of your priorities would be to create more green space in the Federal Territories.
We cannot agree more, but at the same time, the existing green lungs should be preserved and protected. Take, for instance, Bukit Kiara in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, one of the few remaining green lungs in the city.
It is a haven for joggers, cyclists and nature lovers. Its tranquil and pleasant setting is home to many wild plants, birds, monkeys and other creatures. However, over the past few years, it has been “eaten up” slowly from all sides in the name of development.
Bukit Kiara’s strategic location is indisputable. It would be a shame if such beauty is exploited just for development.
The residents, together with FoBK and other concerned organisations, have been fighting for many years to preserve the area as a green lung. We hope you can assist us in this effort by speeding up the gazetting of the 188.93ha area in Bukit Kiara as a permanent forest reserve.
In June 2007, the cabinet made a decision to keep 188.93ha of Bukit Kiara green. FoBK strongly believes that this decision should be respected by all.
FoBK would also like you to direct Dewan Bandaraya (the approving authority for all projects in Bukit Kiara) to reject development plans submitted by private entrepreneurs.
Dewan Bandaraya should maintain Bukit Kiara’s status as a green belt and not allow anyone to claim a stake in it.
FoBK and our affiliates would like to work hand in hand with you to expedite the gazetting of this green lung.
“There is no greater calamity than to under-estimate the strength of your enemy. For to under-estimate the strength of your enemy is to lose your treasure. Therefore, when opposing troops meet in battle, victory belongs to the grieving side” - Lao Tze
In Defence Of A De-fence-less Bukit Kiara
It began in late 2011 with the erection of an unsightly metal fencing 3.6 meters high along the famed trails of the forest in Bukit Kiara. (coordinates 3°8′5″N 101°38′28″E). Dubbed The Great Wall “ by TRAKS (Trails Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor), the battle-cry was sounded when bulldozers moved into a tranquil, defence-less Bukit Kiara to clear swathes of forest to make needless temporary tracks and roads causing collateral damage to flora and fauna, soil erosion, pollution to pristine streams downhill and fragmentation of existing trails network.
These trails have been designed and painstakingly crafted by TRAKS volunteers for bikers, hashers, runners and hikers taking into account sustainable and minimum environmental impact on Bukit Kiara based on IMBA International Standards and Trail-Care concept. Famously touted as “the only such world-class green lung in the heart of the city” the 37 kilometer trails have show-cased Bukit Kiara and Malaysia on the international tourist map. Since 2007, Bukit Kiara had been designated with approval by Cabinet as “Taman Awam Berskala Besar i.e. TABB or Large Scale Public Park of 466.86 acres but its gazettement remains elusive till today.
In defence of a defenceless Bukit Kiara, TRAKS volunteers turned to film-making to record and disseminate virally the damage and “rape” of what is sacred ground to them and a refuge to thousands of park-users.
An activist, aided by TRAKS volunteers, ignited a petition campaign launched by Friends of Bukit Kiara (FoBK), an NGO formed in 2001 to protect and preserve Bukit Kiara. The Save Bukit Kiara campaign is aimed at urging the authorities to:
Gazette Bukit Kiara as a Permanent Forest Park
Halt all construction activities on Bukit Kiara immediately and
Say no to development in or around Bukit Kiara
Walking The Talk To Save Bukit Kiara
Malaysian Nature Society, a key ally in FoBK, fronted the Awareness Walk of 15 July 2012 as the campaign gained momentum with thousands of people rallying to save Bukit Kiara. The Awareness Walk was successful in raising awareness of the need to protect and preserve one of the last remaining green lungs in the city for sustainable development. The campaign was also instrumental in immediately halting construction activities on Bukit Kiara. Assurances were given by the Minister of Local Government and Housing that Bukit Kiara will be gazetted as a Public Park upon the resolution of the issue of leases of specified lots to two large corporations.
What seemed to be a “victory” for the aggrieved side was short-lived however. In October 2012, FoBK was informed by the Mayor of City Hall (Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur or DBKL) of Berjaya Corp’s development plans to build a commercial building, condos, a huge stadium, exhibition hall, hospital, etc. in the adjacent leased equestrian lots as well as a private access road to the Bukit Kiara trails!!!
An FoBK Coalition comprising of 44 Residents Associations (RAs) and 19 Environmental NGOs in the Klang Valley was quickly forged to counter the threat of commercial development and to press for the gazettement of Bukit Kiara as a Forest Park. A Save Bukit Kiara Walk took off on 17 March 2013 after FoBK’s appeal letter of 9 December 2012 to the PM, who passed the buck to the Mayor of DBKL, was met with indifference.
The second protest Walk reflected growing support for the Save Bukit Kiara cause as about 3,000 people showed up that Sunday morning. Supporters came all walks of life; concerned with questions of sustainable development, global warming, pollution, traffic congestion, possible increasing crime and even devaluation of property values in the surrounding areas that may accompany the proposed development. Children held posters of “save the forest and animals” while a banner cried out with “what about us?” to plead with the authorities and developers not to compromise the needs of future generations.
Will the protests of the grieving side in opposing the proposed development plans of Berjaya Corp be heard and halt development in and around Bukit Kiara? Will the primary objective of FoBK’s campaign to gazette Bukit Kiara as a Forest Park since Cabinet approval in 2007 be finally translated into reality in 2013 by the authorities?
The Ever- elusive Gazettement Of Bukit Kiara
According to the authorities, the gazettement of Bukit Kiara is held up because DBKL has not surrendered the leased equestrian Lot 52314 of 62.57 acres back to the Federal government due to a caveat placed on it in April 2008 by Berjaya Corp. (S- 21NCVC-52-2011, para 17).
Why did Berjaya place a caveat on Lot 52314 in 22 April 2008 after Cabinet had already on 27 June 2007 approved for the specific Lot to be part of Bukit Kiara in TABB outlined in the Kuala Lumpur Master Plan? Why was the registration of Berjaya Corp.’s caveat placed 15 years from entry in 1993, not rejected by the authorities then on justifiable grounds in the public’s interests? Why was the monthly rental of RM5,000 paid by Berjaya Corp. from 1993 till October 2000 for Lot 52314 of a good 62.57 acres further reduced to a mere RM2000 thereafter till 2010 ‘out of goodwill”? ( S-21NCVC -52-2011, para 38).
Approval for surrender of Lot 52314 back to the government had also been agreed by the Federal Territory Land Working Committee on 29 December 2009. The decision was conveyed to DBKL vide its letter dated 12 February 2010. Why did DBKL take more than a year to issue notice to Berjaya Corp. to surrender Lot 52314 only on 25 February 2011? ( S-21NCVC-52-2011, paras 35 & 41)
The High Court Ruling in the case of DBKL vs Bukit Kiara Resort Bhd( KBRB) of Berjaya Corp on Lot 52314 to remove Berjaya’s caveat ordered for a Lease Agreement to be executed between DBKL and Berjaya. The Court dismissed DBKL’s application for removal of Berjaya’s private caveat with costs on 21 September 2011 (S-21NCVC-10-2011, paras 72- 77). Why didn’t DBKL appeal against the High Court Ruling in the interest of an anxious public impatient with the elusive gazettement of Bukit Kiara?
Did DBKL follow the guidelines spelt out in the National Council for Local Government (NCLG) vide a Policy formulated on 9 August 1999 which states very clearly that “For open space that is not surrendered, action must be taken to ensure that it becomes government land and be subsequently reserved and gazetted”?
Lot 52314 comprised of 20 acres of open spaces ( Parcel D) and 43 acres of polo field and grandstand ( Parcel E) which will come within the ambit of the NCLG 1999 Policy on “open spaces”. According to former Town Councillor Mak Khuin Weng, - Our Right To Open Spaces - The Nut Graph, 15 November 2010 - the Policy cannot be ignored as the NCLG is defined under Article 95A of the Federal Constitution. Since Article 95A mandates that the policies of the NCLG be followed, the failure to implement the policy is tantamount to contempt of the Federal Constitution. Was the NCGL Policy adhered to by DBKL?
Why was compulsory acquisition of Lot 52314 of 62.57 acres also not considered by the government under the Land Acquisition Act 1960 in the interests of the public to enable the gazettement of Bukit Kiara, one of the last remaining green lungs in the city and a national treasure to the people?
Development In Bukit Kiara – For Profit?
According to The Star dated 4 December 2012 “City Hall told to separate Bukit Kiara land” the Mayor was quoted as saying “We have to follow the court order and nothing can be done now”. The report added that DBKL had “also proposed to the developer to include a hospital, community facilities and an international school in their project”.
Did the Court Ruling order DBKL to separate Kiara Land or to approve development on lot 52314? (S-21NCVC-10-2011 paras 72-77). On what authority did DBKL have to separate Kiara Land or approve any development on Bukit Kiara in conflict with what is expressed in the Title or upheld by the FT Ministry?
A Title search by FoBK on 18 March 2013 on Lot 50642 of 69.8 acres shows that the “land was to be used for equestrian and recreational purposes only…”. Similarly, a Title search on Lot 52314 also explicitly states “for equestrian, recreation and polo grounds only”.
Why then is any form of development even considered by DBKL since Section 108 of the National Land Code 1965 says a local authority cannot over-ride the ‘expressed conditions” stated in the Land Titles? Isn’t DBKL’s action seen to be in conflict with the directive of the Deputy Chief Secretary of the Ministry Of Federal territory and Urban Welfare who had said on 6 January 2010 in a meeting between DBKL and Berjaya Corp. that the government still upholds its decision NOT to allow any development in Lot 52314 and Lot 50642 based on the terrain and surroundings? (S-21NCC-52-2011, para 21)
A Fierce Green Fire
In the light of the questions revolving around the disputed Lot 52314 of 62.57 acres, a Title search was also conducted on 16 April 2013 on the leased Measat Lot 54268 of 100.154 acres in Bukit Kiara. This lot had been leased to Measat Digicast Sdn. Bhd in April 1998 for a term of 30 years. Why is there no pertinent information in the Title regarding category of land use, expressed conditions and whether it is a qualified or final title as it has been leased since 1998? Why was a caveat registered on the Lot in 29 April 2009 after Cabinet had already clearly designated it in June 2007 as an integral part of TABB in the KL Master Plan? Who had placed the caveat?
Will the questions raised regarding the leased lots 52314 and 54268 be addressed by the authorities to fulfill the government’s promises to place the interests of the public first to finally gazette Bukit Kiara?
Will Berjaya Corp. chose to leave a lasting legacy of a national treasure in its natural state as a ‘gift’ to the people and future generations to remember it by?
Will ‘victory” be rightfully accorded to the anxious public and the grieving side in its battle to commit the government of the day to finally gazette Bukit Kiara i. e. TABB of 466.86 acres as a “ Forest Public Park” as endorsed by Cabinet in June 2007?
Ultimately, “victory” in any battle can be achieved by only you, the people who can save Bukit Kiara, our national treasure from being developed for profit. A US documentary film entitled “A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet” poses this blazing question to all of us:“ If they can turn The Grand Canyon into a ‘cash register’, is any national park safe?”
The answer is up to you.
"Oppose #Berjaya, save #BukitKiara" Walk on March 17, 2013
Youtube video of the #SaveBukitKiara Walk on March 17 2013 organized by The Trails Association Of Kuala Lumpur & Selangor (TRAKS), the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and Friends Of Bukit Kiara (FoBK)- filmed and edited by Phil Bee
Bukit Kiara: Will Commercial Development be allowed on the other side of the Fence?
The Fences at Bukit Kiara are up. It is disturbing to note that half of Bukit Kiara belongs to private owners. The key question is whether the private owners will now take steps to commercialize their side of the fence. Since Bukit Kiara has been designated a green lung, the private owners should display magnanimity by not developing their side of the fence.
We cannot imagine a situation where walkers and joggers have to bear with the noise, pollution and clatter coming from the condos, shopping malls, etc just next to the jogging trail.
Can we continue to enjoy the peace, quiet and tranquillity of Bukit Kiara? Not if the private owners develop their land.
This video is to heighten the awareness of the public who use the jogging trail at Bukit Kiara of what is going on and urge them not to support any move to develop the land on the other side of the fence. Please support us by forwarding the link of this video to your friends. Thank You.
Dr. Pola Singh & Liew Khooi Cheng - Friends of Bukit Kiara (FoBK)