Creative plan to increase greenery in five towns For every 1,000 people, there should be 2ha of greenery, a size equivalent to about two football fields. Howe...

Creative plan to increase greenery in five towns For every 1,000 people, there should be 2ha of greenery, a size equivalent to about two football fields.

However, with Malaysia’s 31 million population, the ratio stands at only 0.6ha for every 1,000 people, the National Landscape Department revealed.

The Department’s Deputy Director-General (Development) Rotina Mohd Daik said that to meet the ideal scenario, Malaysia will need a total of 62,000ha of trees, shrubs, plants, and other greenery.

Based on the Department’s data, the country only has 18,485ha of green areas in total in 2017.

Therefore, the Department aims to balance the concrete jungles with more pockets of greenery in towns and cities nationwide, and not just for decorative purposes.

The plan is to create more green areas – such as public parks and playgrounds – to reduce air pollution, as the greenery absorbs carbon emissions in bustling cities.

“We want to create liveable, sustainable, and walkable cities where you can walk from place to place comfortably and safely while enjoying the scenery, reducing the need for motor vehicles.

“But one of the main problems that hinder people from walking is the sweltering heat.

Nobody wants to go outside for too long,” said Rotina, reported by an English daily recently.

The Department is also working to increase green pockets to create more natural landscapes.

“We are running a pilot project to create green spaces in five towns: Alor Setar, Tawau, Pekan, Batu Pahat, and Bintulu.

This involves coming up with green links in existing spaces between structures in cities, digging up areas to plant grass, and lining sidewalks with trees,” she shared.

To make surroundings more interesting, Rotina said that key places like bus stops, shopping malls, and tourist areas should be connected with greenery to make walking a more enjoyable experience.

She confirmed that there has been good cooperation between the Department and local authorities.

However, she also suggested that local authorities take green linkages into account when working on town planning as that will save the Department effort in re-creating such spaces.

At present, project developers are only compelled to allocate 10% of an area for green space, such as public parks.

“With that, the number of parks will increase every year as more land is opened for development.

There has been a steady 5-10% increase in public parks annually since 2014,” she affirmed.

Rotina also urged developers to voluntarily set aside larger areas to help conserve natural surroundings.

The percentage will be more substantial if each local authority can ensure 30% of the area under their purview is allocated to green space, as it will inspire people to participate in outdoor activities – parents would encourage children to go outside and play, for instance, instead of them leading sedentary lifestyles.

Aside from creating green spaces through its pilot project, the Department also aims to develop a unique landscape for each town, representing its own identity.

“For example, the culture and way of life influence the landscape in States like Kelantan and Terengganu, where the dominant feature is the coastline.

This differs from Kedah, where it is influenced by rice fields,” Rotina pointed out.

This will preserve and enhance such features to boost tourism and promote a sense of pride among locals for their town’s individuality.

Also addressed was the topic of old trees that have uprooted and fallen and caused damages and deaths.

Rotina emphasised that local authorities need to keep tabs on the old trees they wish to preserve; frequent maintenance and checks are a must.

“They have to inspect the structure of these trees to see if they are healthy – if possible, every year,” she urged.

She also hopes that the landscape industry will be regulated for uniformity throughout the country.

By Neera Khandpuri.

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