Ipoh’s charm in its majestic buildings and its setting near pretty limestone outcrops were once complemented with the magnificent tropical trees lining its roads. The trees remind us how the British love greenery and need shade from the harsh tropical sun. They had the foresight to plant and stock our parks, roads and riverbanks, with a good selection of wide-canopied tropical trees.
The choice of trees is breathtakingly beautiful in bloom, and the carpet of fallen petals, are a sight to behold. Gopeng Road could be ablaze with its red flame-of-the-forest trees, yellow-flame trees along Tambun Road gave it a grand and imposing air, Tiger Lane looked regal with the golden-yellow angsana, and the blue of the jacarandas around the old polo ground blended well with the hazy blue-green hills in the distance.
Trees with inconspi-cuous flowers or evergreens were equally aesthetic. Raintrees along Jalan Leong Sin Nam or the riverbank, provided shelter, beauty and grace whilst the lofty casuarinas were the perfect backdrop for St Michael’s Institution.
Although we lack seasons to appreciate the changing tree foliage, we are amply rewarded with the wealth of colour from the diffe-rent flowering cycles. But that is all history. Over several decades, nondescript palms replaced these trees. Sadly, Ipohites only know about a tree’s removal when confronted with the tree-stump, as the removal is usually done without warning.
Usual official responses are a combination of the following: 1) don’t know, 2) only following orders, 3) the tree is rotting and presents a danger to the public, 4) palm trees like those in the holy-land, are preferred.
Ipoh is not the only city to suffer from ‘tree attacks’. The removal of trees in Kuala Lumpur happened because of a premature act, done in the name of progress and development. However, Ipoh’s trees did not make way for development – they were removed because of ignorance, apathy and an unwillingness to nurture and maintain the trees.
Lessons from Singapore
How is it that Singapore, a concrete jungle, can be termed the ‘garden of the east’ with people from all over the world singing praises about their beautiful tree-lined boulevards? Why can they manage a rigorous maintenance, pruning and horticultural regime but not us? These ‘jobs’ provide employment as well as beautify the city. We don’t hear of casualties from people incapacitated by falling branches or uprooted trees (except during a severe thunderstorm). The Singaporeans had the good sense to acknowledge the social, communal, environmental and economic benefits of trees.
Sadly, it appears that Ipoh’s city planners have ignored all these. Down in Putrajaya, a delegation will soon attend a two-day study trip in Singapore, on planting and maintaining trees.
Many wonder if the trip is another jolly or an opportunity for Christmas shopping, combined with a family-holiday, during the end-of-year school vacation? This is another wasteful extravaganza at the taxpayer’s expense. Is it necessary for a whole ‘delegation’ to go? Another reason why Malaysians are mistrustful of sending civil servants on foreign study courses is because very little of the knowledge gained, is shared with other staff, on their return.
Is our Agriculture College at Serdang inadequate? What about the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia? I know these places have knowledgeable and helpful personnel. Or should we close these establishments down because they lack the expertise and quality staff?
Nearer to home, Perak’s own Jabatan Pertanian in Titi Gantong provides useful courses about aspects of botany including the planting and maintenance of trees. The lecturers from the nearby agricultural college are specialists in their various fields.
Hopefully, Ipohites are more sensible than their KL colleagues about sending people on pointless study trips abroad.
Our experts are just as knowledgeable. Why not allow our horticulturists, arborists and tree surgeons to perform their jobs with minimal or no political interference? Let us replant our beautiful trees and restore Ipoh to its former beauty.