Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Penang's tale of two parks

I greatly suspect that it's hardly coincidental that the improvement works at the Ceruk To'kun Forest Park at the foothills of the Bukit Mertajam hill are going on at the same time as the expansion works at the Penang Botanical Gardens.

Both are being carried out with funds from the federal government, not the state government as I had assumed initially, and presumably both projects were approved at the same time. But there's a lot of unhappiness about how the federal government has bulldozed it's way through with scant disregard for the wishes of the stakeholders, especially the people of Penang.

While the works at the Penang Botanic Gardens have come in for a lot of criticism and protests from environmentalists who claim - rightly, as I would like to believe and wholeheartedly support - that the very soul of the Gardens is being destroyed, the on-going works at the Ceruk To'kun Forest Park has hardly garnered any adverse comment.

I suppose it's because there's none of the monstrosity that's affecting the Penang Botanic Gardens permanently. The federal government had approved the plans to build two huge concrete arches near the entrance to the Gardens and allocated RM7 million of tax payers' money to it. In the process, a lot of the vegetation has been cleared and destroyed. Many hawkers who used to operate near the entrance has also been displaced. What's left currently is an eye sore: a vacant clearing with the two arches and tarred road surfaces all around it. With the clearing of the vegetation, the silence of the Gardens is broken by the jarring sound of guns firing from the nearby Penang Rifle Club. All these have not been considered by the federal government and indeed, the writer of this blog said that the architect couldn't even give any justification for his plans. Sad, indeed.

By contrast, I'm relatively happy that the RM500,000 works at the Ceruk To'kun Forest Park on the mainland is being carried out with almost no public complaints.

I suppose it's because there's no destruction of the environment here. Work started late last year with the cementing of the banks of the stream that flows through the Park. Today, hordes of people come in the afternoon to take in the cool fresh air and the local boys (and the occasional monkeys) use the pools for a dip.

At the entrance to the Park, all that's seen is a modest archway but what the authorities can improve on is to redraw the parking lots. More thought should be put into this as there is a dearth of parking lots during peak hours.

The old nursery is currently being rebuilt as well as the nearby surau there.

But if there is anything to object about all the work here, it has to be the building that's coming up on what was once a small field that campers use in the Park grounds. I haven't been able to figure out yet what's this building for. By the time I do, it will most probably be too late. I only hope this project can only improve the Park and not destroy it.

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