Cover Story

By Jerry Francis

Ipoh which in its heyday was known as one of Malaysia’s cleanest and beautiful cities, is now gaining a reputation as a dirty one with most public parks in states of appalling dereliction and disrepair. Through the years, poor maintenance is slowly but surely deteriorating the condition of the four once beautiful public parks in the city. One needs to just visit these public parks to see the condition. Why, and what is wrong with the Ipoh City Council that the condition of these public parks – Taman D.R. Seenivasagam, Ipoh Riverfront Park, Gunung Lang Recreation Park and Sultan Abdul Aziz Recreation Park – are continuing to decline?

“Maintenance” means more than keeping clean. “Repair” needs to be uttered in the same breath.

It cannot be the result of shortage of funds or manpower. In fact so much funds and manpower had been channelled to these public parks for redevelopment and facelift that the current condition of Taman D.R. Seenivasagam, Ipoh Riverfront Park, Gunung Lang Recreation Park and Sultan Abdul Aziz Recreation Park is a disgrace and inexcusable.

The only assumption that I can think of is that the council employees who had been tasked with the responsibility of looking after the “taman” are not dedicated to maintaining them. They failed to understand what “maintenance” means, it is not just keeping a site clean. It includes “repair” which must be uttered in the same breath.

The millions of ringgit spent to develop the parks only made the parks beautiful as long as they were new. After a couple of years all beautiful features began to fall apart – fountains and facilities stopped functioning, ornamental flower-pots damaged and plants withered and floors cracked.

 

Taman D.R. Seenivasagam

Take for instance the Taman D.R. Seenivasagam, set up by the People’s Progressive Party when it was in control of the Ipoh Municipal Council and was acclaimed as the best premier family park in the country.

The then municipal council had ensured that the park was well looked after and maintained. Daily, its employees, who were smartly dressed in orange tunics and blue trousers, were on duty at the park. The municipal councillor in-charge was also frequently seen at the park.

Those park attendants were not just looking after the park, they were there to ensure the safety of the visitors and to direct the traffic. There were many facilities for children. The Ipohites who had grown up in the city in the 70s, can attest to the wonderful and memorable times they had in the park during their growing up days.

Looking at the park now, most of the attractions have gone. The Japanese Garden, which was constructed with assistance and guidance of experts from the Japanese twin city of Fukuoka, has lost its beauty.

The boating facilities in the artificial lake had also stopped. Even though there are still a lot of fish in the lake, there appears to be no more excitement from visitors, particularly children, to feed them.

 

Ipoh Riverfront Park

The redevelopment of the Ipoh Riverfront Park, located beside Sungai Kinta and along Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah in the centre of the city, is a glaring waste of public funds.

Hardly after four years of spending RM4.4 million, which transformed the once “People’s Park” into a spectacular garden of grandeur, it has become a dying park. The project was completed in 2010. It was uniquely designed and developed with great emphasis on Islamic motifs and patterns both in the structures and on the ground.

After a short glorious existence, the park now appears to be abandoned. All the efforts and emphasis as well as ratepayers’ money that were pumped into planning the structures and landscapes were all for nothing.

It is probably a haven for drug addicts now – not safe even to take a walk in the park in the day time.

We can only look and wonder what will it eventually become:  will all the beautiful structures be just allowed to decay and collapse? If so, it will not take long, already many of the items are missing, including the commemoration plaque embedded on a huge boulder.

 

Gunung Lang Recreation Park

Just on the outskirts of the city along Jalan Kuala Kangsar is the unique Gunung Lang Recreational Park, which has an artificial waterfall that can be seen from the North-South Expressway.

The main attraction of the park is the once-beautiful garden that befits a palace. It is located on the opposite side of a lake surrounded by limestone hills and approachable only by a short boat ride. About RM11 million was spent on the park so that it could be a premier family recreation spot for city folk and a tourist attraction.

However, despite the time and money spent on the project, the park still fails to achieve its desired objective after two decades.

Many visitors, who took the short boat ride to the 1.6ha park, had nothing good to say about the park except their disappointments. Withered plants, damaged pots, damaged gazebos and cracked floors are everywhere. Even the aviaries were empty and damaged. The two ostriches and about 10 deer in a common enclosure are in a pathetic condition. The animals appear to be undernourished and lacking in any kind of veterinary care.

The only facilities worth mentioning are a cluster of traditional wooden kampong houses and two newly-built toilets.

What intrigues me is how such a beautiful public park located in the front yard of the department responsible for the upkeep, Ipoh City Council’s Landscape and Recreation Department, could be so poorly maintained?

 

Sultan Abdul Aziz Recreation Park

The Sultan Abdul Aziz Recreation Park, better known as the “Polo Ground” among the locals, appears to be the last of the family parks in the city that still continues to attract hundreds of people daily.

However, local folk fear that the popular park may soon lose its allure due to poor maintenance – similar to what has happened to other parks in the city.

The Sultan Abdul Aziz Recreation Park, located along Jalan Brash off Jalan Raja DiHilir, is popular with city folk who converge on it in the mornings and evenings for their daily exercise – walking, jogging around the track or using the outdoor fitness facilities and reflexology path.

There is also a well-equipped playground and a large field in the centre of the park, where children can fly kites, skate or play games. The park offers lush greenery and panoramic views of its surroundings with gazebos along a small stream that pours into a water retention pond.

It was well maintained at one time as even the late Sultan Azlan Shah would frequently take his morning walk in the park.

However, the park is slowly but surely losing its glow. Poor maintenance by the Ipoh City Council is beginning to show. Some equipment of the outdoor fitness facilities is either damaged or missing.

The once scenic stream of clear water is now murky and filled with undergrowth and litter. One cannot stay under the gazebos for long without being bothered by mosquitoes – one can only hope that they are not Aedes mosquitoes.

The hawkers are also contributing to the poor maintenance of the park. They have taken over several parking bays along the fringe of the park, despite receiving innumerable complaints from members of the public.

As a result, the environment in the park is denigrated and ruined by the ugly sight of hawkers flogging their wares, attracting flies and rodents. 

If the city council continues with its poor maintenance, the city’s latest attraction – Dataran KTM in front of the iconic railway station, will be another victim as it has become a pesta ground for the city folks.

It is no longer a beautification project as it was intended to be. The ground is becoming bare and the concrete floor cracked as a large crowd gather at the site each night.

One wonders how long before its main attraction, the fountain with synchronised and multi coloured lights, can last?