A new law is being mooted by the National Landscape Department to protect natural surroundings and ensure enough land is reserved for landscaping.
Director-general Rotina Mohd Daik says the department is in the midst of drafting the proposed law and engaging with necessary stakeholders.
But the Bill is still in its preliminary stage and needs approval from the Federal Territories Ministry before it can proceed.
“There should be reserved land for landscaping. But often times, if we find a good location, such land is often used for commercial purposes such as for shops or parking lots.
“More is needed to ensure we have space for landscaping.
“Natural landscapes like hills should also be preserved and not cut for development, ” Rotina says.
Citing New Zealand and Switzerland as examples, she says if such countries can progress economically while maintaining their natural landscape, so can Malaysia.
She says some countries construct buildings and bridges that blend with natural landforms, like bridges that are raised to make way for hills instead of flattening them.
Malaysia also has a lot more room for improvement in terms of green spaces per population.
The ideal ratio of green spaces to our population is two hectares (ha), or the size of about two football fields for every 1,000 people.
But we are far from meeting this target, as it stands at only 0.6ha per 1,000 people now.
With the estimated population in 2020 being 33.6 million people, we will need 67,200 ha to be developed as open space.
“Green spaces are defined as areas that are overgrown with a number of naturally occurring or cultivated plants.
“Green areas are one of the most important elements in determining the sustainability of an environment while my department and Plan Malaysia focuses on public spaces.
“According to data from the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry, Malaysia’s total green area is now 67.6%, ” Rotina says.
Malaysia came in at eighth place among the greenest countries in the Asia Pacific region, based on an analysis of 13 nations by Singapore-based research firm ValueChampion last year.
Japan topped the list as the overall most environmentally friendly country, followed by Singapore.
Australia and South Korea were tied for third place, and New Zealand is in fourth.
While Malaysia came in at eighth place, we did very well in the green spaces category, which covers forest areas (% of land area) and green spaces per person (square metres per person).
Malaysia scored highly, coming in second with 67.6% and 43.9 square metres per person just below New Zealand.
But we still have work to do.
“There are shortcomings and pitfalls in managing landscape development as a whole.
“Firstly, we need to educate the nation on the importance of landscape. Our society still thinks that landscape is not important, or merely decorative.
“They always think it is the cream rather than the cake. But t landscape development provides access to recreation and creates tourist attractions.
“So it indirectly increases the economic income of the country, ” Rotina says.
Parks are also always associated with non-revenue spaces.
“It is hard for us to get strategic locations to build parks.
“Any good locations in urban areas are always given up to commercialism and developers.
“We would encourage all local authorities to provide us good location for parks which would in turn, provide recreation access for the people, ” she urges.
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