Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Like Kuala Langat reserve, Sg Buloh plant nurseries need holistic solution

Selangor is already a developed state and should now focus more on enhancing the quality of life of its people by opting for a developmental and environmental balance.

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The shocking degazettement and the surprise re-gazettement of the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR) has been an amusement of sorts as, having stirred a hornet’s nest of protests from NGOs and state representatives, the Selangor government dropped the proposal like a hot potato and decided to heed the hue and cry of the people.

Selangor is already a developed state and should now focus more on enhancing the quality of life of its people by opting for a developmental and environmental balance. This was the primary reason why opposition reached a crescendo forcing the Selangor government to backtrack.

What Selangor needs most now is enhancement of the quality of residential living especially in the provision of parks, playgrounds, open spaces, clean and pleasant environs and efficient municipal services instead of an endless urban sprawl that eats away at the last vestiges of suburban greenery.

Selangor needs more urban greenery to make the surroundings pleasant and also do its part to cope with climate change. It must be noted that the weather has changed for the worse in the Klang Valley as can be seen by the torrential downpours resulting in frequent flash floods and the high incidences of lightning due to the excessive heat emanating from the urban areas.

It is here that horticulture can play a very important role in re-greening and rehabilitating unused and barren spaces of the concrete jungle. Turfing, planting saplings, shrubs, palms and trees reduce the urban heat and decrease the rain run-off and soil erosion not to mention creating an eye-pleasing colourful landscape.

Needless to say the horticultural industry is an important one for Selangor. Selangor’s horticultural industry took root during the 1960s when the Sg Buloh Leprosarium inmates took to planting a wide variety of plants and flowers to earn an extra income and the annual Open Day saw large numbers of customers from the new housings areas and townships such as Petaling Jaya, Damansara, Shah Alam, Ampang, Kepong and others start snapping up the products on sale.

This was a humble but impactful start to Selangor’s horticultural industry centred in Sg Buloh. The Sg Buloh Leprosarium with its lush hillside greenery, waterfalls and streams was dubbed the Valley of Hope by the British administration who needed a secluded site for the hospital. It was from this Valley of Hope, which can be dubbed Selangor’s own home-grown “Silicon Valley” that Sg Buloh’s famous horticultural industry began to take shape and grow vibrantly in the following decades.

However, the Sg Buloh horticultural industry now faces a daunting prospect and bleak future brought about by development. About 100-200 nurseries in the Kota Damansara Green Lane, Jalan Hospital and nearby areas have been issued with eviction notices by various property and infra-structure developers.

This problem had been anticipated for a long time and many appeals were made to the Selangor government to use this opportunity to set up a horticultural hub that can be the pride of the state, a revenue spinner and a tourist attraction that could could draw visitors, domestic and foreign. The horticultural hub will also ensure proper commercial growth of the industry and contribute much for beautification, landscaping and rehabilitation efforts of the state and country. The nurseries supply a wide variety of plants and trees and their customers include the forestry department, housing developers, highway operators, urban planners, landscapers, agrobusinesses, fruit farmers and others.

It was bearing all these in mind that the former menteri besar Khalid Ibrahim took the initiative to find a holistic solution for the Sg Buloh horticultural industry to ensure its long-term growth. His administration issued a directive to the Selangor Land and Mines Office1qq stating that the department explore ways to include the horticultural nurseries in the future development of the RRI.

The RRI was subsequently sold to the EPF by the federal government and nothing was done to make the directive a reality in resolving the nurserymen’s predicament. The menteri besar’s directive has, legally speaking, the force of a promissory estoppel and it is the state government’s responsibility to implement it if feasible. Subsequent state governments cannot simply wash their hands of the problem.

If the RRI cannot be utilised for a nursery hub then an alternative site should be chosen and the onus is on the present state government as the eviction notices will take effect soon. Many meetings have been held on this issue of a horticultural hub but the state administration is simply clueless about finding an alternative site. The horticultural nursery owners and operators, now mostly comprising senior citizens, are looking on helplessly at the sunset of their hard-earned industry.

It is hoped that this issue will be brought up in the next session of the Selangor state legislative assembly and an urgent solution found. The nurserymen may not have the collective strident voice or political clout of those who opposed the KLNFR degazettement, but nevertheless their problems are equally important and need to be resolved by the state government headed by Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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