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Opinion

Friday, 13 October 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Open areas are getting smaller

I RECENTLY attended an international conference called “Sustainable Cities, Communities and Partnerships for Sustainable Development Goals” of which KL City Hall (DBKL) was one of the organisers.

Speaker after speaker at the conference pointed out that due to rapid urbanisation, there is an urgent need to keep cities safe, healthy and sustainable for human health and wellbeing, and one of the ways to do this was to have more open spaces for recreational and sport activities.

Just like the human body, cities cannot survive without green and open spaces. Urban parks, open spaces and green lungs are critical resources in making cities more liveable, comfortable and sustainable.

The speaker from DBKL in a paper titled “Managing Urban Parks and Green Spaces for a Healthy and Liveable City: Kuala Lumpur City Hall Perspectives” said: “KL City Hall will achieve a balance between physical, economic, social and environmental development in line with the Govern­ment’s policy to implement sustainable development strategies.”

It all sounds good on paper but what is really happening on the ground?

Public open spaces in the city are susceptible and vulnerable to being “grabbed” by property developers indirectly through certain NGOs or foundations.

Open spaces in urban areas throughout the country in general, and KL city in particular, are shrinking in size. In KL city, open spaces have been slowly declining in hectarage over the past decade.

Owing to the scarcity and declining areas of open space available, the trend in KL city is for developers to gain maximum density ratio for their projects by not only having more blocks but also more floors, notwithstanding their detrimental impact on the environment. Intensive development is the order of the day.

One case in point is the proposed development of eight blocks of 42- to 54-storey condominiums at Taman Rimba Kiara (pic).

In 2014, instead of maintaining the 25-acre Taman Rimba Kiara, DBKL alienated 47.7% of the park area to Yayasan Persekutan Wilayah, a foundation under its jurisdiction.

When the proposed project is completed, the population density in the affluent Taman Tun Dr Ismail neighbourhood would increase from the present 74 persons per acre to an alarming 979 per acre!

And DBKL, the approving authority, has already given out the development order.

Is this what DBKL calls “balanced” development?

In the current scenario, the question is whether our local authorities such as DBKL are committed to preserving and safeguarding the limited green spaces in the city or are they working in tandem with property developers to reduce these open spaces?

Are they part of the solution (to preserve the limited open spaces) or are they part of the problem?

Can DBKL explain why a 2007 Cabinet decision to gazette a significant portion of Bukit Kiara is still on the drawing board even after 10 years? Why is it taking its own sweet time to complete the formalities and do the necessary?

And on another related matter, when is the KL Draft City Plan 2020 going to be adopted and gazetted?

Instead of working hand in hand with the community to preserve open spaces by implementing more “green space” initiatives, it would seem that local authorities are doing just the opposite.

Isn’t it time to reverse this trend? It may be a daunting task but a start has to be made. There’s no two ways about it.

There is an urgent need for local authorities to change their existing mindset and value system so that priority is given to protecting and conserving existing open and public spaces.

Local authorities are duty-bound to give due regard to the wellbeing and health of the rakyat. Why are they not doing this?

The public is mindful that providing more open spaces may not be feasible but please don’t give away the existing open areas.

What they want the local authorities to do is to work hand in hand with the community to facilitate the preservation of the existing green and open spaces in urban areas for our future generations.

DR POLA SINGH

TTDI resident

Kuala Lumpur