IT BEGAN, innocuously enough, with the construction of a 3.5m-high fence along a 4.7km stretch of Bukit Kiara, one of the most well-known and treasured but yet to be gazetted nature parks in Kuala Lumpur.
The National Landscape Department, which comes under the Housing and Local Government Ministry, said the fence was part of an upgrading project to demarcate the area and increase security for visitors.
Considering that we are all concerned about security these days, there was no hue and cry initially.
But when the heavy machinery moved in, and trees were felled (3,000 at last count), and trails were damaged, the people were incensed.
The hill and its many trails are a boon for walkers, joggers and mountain bikers who flock to Bukit Kiara daily because it is a welcome green lung in the heart of the urban jungle.
It does not need buildings, shoplots or a food court to attract the people. There is, according to the Malaysian Nature Society, such a proposal.
Let us hope that proposals of this nature will never see the light of day when it comes to ecologically-sensitive spots like Bukit Kiara.
The people are going up the hill to exercise and keep fit, and enjoy the pristine condition of Mother Nature.
All the trappings of modern civilisation are nearby so there is no need to include them up the hill.
Visitors to the park, some from as far as Singapore, can reach up to 6,000 people during the weekends and half the number on weekdays.
The damage already caused by the project has also opened the eyes of the people as to what could possibly lie beyond if no immediate measures are taken to gazette the park.
Between 40 and 50 years ago, the area spanned 647ha, but the land area diminished progressively over the years.
As part of the Kuala Lumpur Master Plan, the Government had agreed to gazette 189ha as a permanent green area.
A request for the park to be gazetted was made way back in 2006 to the Federal Territories Ministry but it is still pending.
And what is more worrisome is that because of this project, the people are now made aware that parcels of land on the hill are said to be privately owned and there are legitimate concerns whether they will be commercialised.
Last Sunday, a large group of concerned people turned up to show support for the immediate gazetting of the park. To date, the Friends of Bukit Kiara have collected 10,000 signatures for a petition to be submitted to Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung.
The park should be gazetted immediately to allay the fears of the people who have, with their own bare hands, kept the park healthy and well-maintained over the years.
It is time to gazette the park so that it will remain a beacon of hope that Bukit Kiara will remain green forever.