Ipohites Struggling to Protect Trees

Protecting trees, especially those outside our gardens, is an uphill battle in this country. Right here in Ipoh, we can already witness such struggles. For over a year now, an online effort initiated by Ipohites, is calling on the Perak State Government to protect the trees on a large piece of land it owns along Jalan Kelab Golf – this was the old Tenby School before they moved to Meru. At the time of writing, this campaign is 251 people strong and growing. They have requested that the State save the old trees, especially when they decide to sell or develop the land. They hope the State utilises the concept of “building around trees” instead of the irresponsible default of clearing the land and planting baby trees again. In the last two years, we have witnessed too many instances where the majestic old trees of the Ipoh were mercilessly chopped down and uprooted in the name of high-end property development. How ironic that the purchasers of these top-notch properties would probably yearn for the cool shade and breathtaking views afforded by these grand dames of nature.

We know that developers are looking to maximise profits by building as many houses as possible, onto a piece of land. What they probably fail to realise is that large and mature trees actually increase the value of that land. We now see some mature developers in Malaysia like Sitrak Corporation Sdn Bhd that only permits 20% of homestead land to be developed in its Tanarimba project. SP Setia is preserving trees and animal habitats as much as they can in their residential development at Eco Glades in Putrajaya. In the U.S., developers like Autumn Hall Inc and Clark Realty Capital were recognised with awards of excellence for their dedication to preserve trees during construction. These developers recognise the importance of trees, and they provide an example of how builders can create neighbourhoods and homes while protecting the natural world.

The above effort in Ipoh started in July 2013. They have written to Yayasan Perak (with a c.c. to the town council, MBI) a couple of times. Yayasan Perak did not give a written reply but were verbally supportive when contacted. The organisation however hinted that the ultimate decision maker is the Perak State Government. A long letter with the signatures and comments from supporters was hand delivered to the ‘Setiausaha Kerajaan Negeri Perak’ and the ‘Timbalan Setiausaha Kerajaan (Pembangunan)’ in January 2015. But sadly no reply or action has been received from any of them, to date.

It is sad that Malaysian citizens have to work so hard to protect nature in their own community. In many developed countries, a house occupant can complain to the local council when the neighbour chops down a mature tree in his own compound. This is feasible with the regulation like the Tree Preservation Orders (UK) imposed by the local councils. The prime motivation of these regulations are to protect trees in order to improve the local environment. Sadly here, if someone calls the MBI on a similar situation, the typical reply is “tapi pokok itu di kawasan persendirian, MBI tak ada kuasa” (“but the tree is in a private area, MBI has no jurisdiction”).

While local government grapples with these issues, it is heartening that the people of Ipoh are building awareness and drawing attention to the plight that faces this beautiful city. We hope to see this campaign and more campaigns like this turn awareness into action, and one day, regulation. Until then, you can support this campaign at https://www.change.org/p/the-old-ipoh-tenby-spare-the-trees or start your own campaigns at https://www.change.org/ or www.care.org/.

After all…“mighty oaks, from little acorns grow”.

Jasvin Josen

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