Years of toil by civil society resulted in gazettement of Bukit Kiara Federal Park

The recent announcement on the partial gazettement of Bukit Kiara Federal Park is a sweet victory of sorts.

The journey towards the gazettement, however, has been an uphill battle.

In 1976, the Federal Government acquired 621ha of Bukit Kiara Estate from Ng Chin Siu & Sons Rubber Estate Ltd by compulsory order “for public purposes.”

The original stated intention was to establish a public park and an arboretum, potentially a ‘Hyde Park’ for Bukit Kiara.

Unfortunately, over the years, this original intention has given way to several developments, both for public institutions and private entities.

What remains today is only 162ha and the gazettement of two-thirds of this land, i.e 111ha, was finally passed on July 29, 2020 with the official announcement made on Nov 4, 2020.

How did we get here?

In 1982 a world-class Taman Kiara Master Plan by renowned international consultant Royston Hanamoto Abey & Aley was conceived as a national botanical gardens.

Over 70 per cent of this was intended as an arboretum in the north transitioning southwards into a park-like Pusara Negara, then into manicured urban parks (today’s Taman Lembah Kiara), plant nursery, and family picnic grounds (today’s Taman Rimba Kiara which is also the subject of an ongoing luxury condominium project and a public golf course, which is now Kelab Golf Perkhidmatan Awam).

This impressive master plan was unfortunately not implemented.

Instead, the Damansara sewage treatment plant and a Muslim cemetery were built in the southwest corner of the estate. On the eastern stretch, the National Institute of Public Administration or Intan officially opened in 1984 followed by other public institutional facilities, including TV Pendidikan, National Science Centre and the Securities Commission.

These projects still, however, broadly adhered to the notion of public purpose.

In 1993, the establishment of the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club on land originally meant for Pusara Negara signalled the full abandonment of the Taman Kiara Master Plan.

The history of community engagement to protect Bukit Kiara started in 1994 with a signature campaign led by the Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) Residents Association after it became clear that the original intent to maintain the green lung had been clearly abandoned.

A petition with 1,529 signatures was submitted to then-mayor Datuk Mazlan Ahmad to gazette the 155.68ha Bukit Kiara.

The pro tem Friends of Bukit Kira (FoBK) was formed in June 2001 spearheaded by Liew Khooi Cheng with the support of then Segambut MP Dr Tan Kee Kwong from Gerakan.

In May 2005, a coalition comprising 44 residents’ associations and environmental non-governmental organisations, including Trails Association of Kuala Lumpur, Global Environment Centre, and Malaysian Nature Society, submitted a petition to then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, for the remaining green lung to be gazetted as an urban park and for all commercial developments to be stopped.

In June 2007, the Cabinet announced that “466.86 acres” or 188.9ha would be gazetted as a large-scale public park.

Through these years, several Save Bukit Kiara walks were organised and in 2012, a Save Bukit Kiara campaign enlisting over 10,000 signatures was presented.

The late Liew, who became pro tem chairman of FoBK in 2001, was at the helm of the organisation until FoBK was formally registered in 2014.

Liew deserves special recognition as the inspiration to the movement for the protection of Bukit Kiara.

He was an unassuming soft-spoken retired civil engineer who would passionately educate TTDI residents at every opportunity about the dangers of losing the green lung.

Keen to pass on the mantle to a new generation, Liew stepped aside in 2014 for Tan Sri Salleh Mohd Nor to assume the post of president, Henry Goh as vice-president, and Abdul Hafiz Abu Bakar as secretary.

There has also been consistent support across the political spectrum to protect and preserve Bukit Kiara over the years.

The gazettement of Bukit Kiara would not have come to fruition had it not been for the undivided support from Segambut MPs over the years. Besides Dr Tan, other MPs who supported the cause over the years were Lim Lip Eng and Hannah Yeoh, both from DAP.

In recent years, actions to protect the green lung became a central part of Yeoh’s constituency promise and her tireless efforts are well recognised.

There is still much to be done to ensure that the remaining tracts of land are gazetted.

FoBK is in constant engagement with Kuala Lumpur City Hall and National Landscape Department on ways to improve and manage the park.

A robust management plan is important for a public amenity that balances social, economic, and environmental priorities, and the need for a bottom-up perspective to fundamentally incorporate civil society aspirations is paramount for a sustainable outcome.

Support our cause by signing up as a member at Help preserve Bukit Kiara for future generations.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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