Championing sustainability and urban biodiversity

The award-winning Elmina Rainforest Knowledge Centre (ERKC) in City of Elmina, Shah Alam, Selangor.

THE key to progressing sustainably is for new developments to adopt landscape strategies that prioritise biodiversity conservation and restoration.

That was what Sime Darby Property (SDP) had in mind when setting up the Elmina Rainforest Knowledge Centre (ERKC) at its City of Elmina (COE) development in Shah Alam, Selangor.

Positioned as the “Gateway to Malaysia’s Natural Heritage”, it is a one-stop facility that promotes environmental education, conservation, research and development, eco-tourism and other green activities - with the ultimate aim of increasing public environmental literacy and making nature accessible to all.

Azmir: Building sustainable townships while nurturing healthycommunities and ecosystems should be the way forward forproperty developments because it would in turn inspire residentsand the public to care about and protect the environments theyare living in, for a better future.Azmir: Building sustainable townships while nurturing healthycommunities and ecosystems should be the way forward forproperty developments because it would in turn inspire residentsand the public to care about and protect the environments theyare living in, for a better future.ERKC was established in partnership with the Tropical Rainforest Conservation and Research Centre (TRCRC), a Malaysian non-profit organisation, and commenced operations in October 2020.

Occupying approximately 3.5 acres within the 300-acre Elmina Central Park - the main building of ERKC features an open exhibition/gathering area which can host everything from workshops to hands-on interactive classes for the community, while the adjacent Elmina Living Collection Nursery (ELCN), currently holds 36 seed beds and has the capacity to germinate up to 100,000 trees.

Both the ERKC and ELCN play a pivotal role in SDP’s efforts to create an urban biodiversity corridor in COE to promote nature conservation among urban communities and enhance human well-being.

“The core philosophy for COE was the integration of nature and wellness into every aspect of residents’ lives. In line with our Purpose to be a Value Multiplier for People, Businesses, Economies, and the Planet, this environmental initiative is fundamental in the way we plan our parks and green spaces, emphasising community involvement and awareness of working with NGOs to restore green spaces and promote healthy soil,” said Sime Darby Property’s group managing director Datuk Azmir Merican.

Azmir highlighted that with urban communities globally getting increasingly disconnected from nature in recent years, it was imperative that developers play a role in reversing that trend.

“Facilities like ERKC provide invaluable spaces for the community to engage in impactful nature conservation activities, educate younger generations about the importance of nature and also serve as a hub for research and co-working among forestry NGOs and related bodies,” he said.

“This allows the public to better comprehend urban biodiversity and why it matters. Especially in a country like Malaysia which is blessed with abundant natural heritage. Creating such connections between communities and nature can ultimately enhance people’s lives and well-being, as well as the overall health of the planet.”

This was what made ERKC a standout winner in the Environmental Category of the Malaysia Property Award™ 2023 by FIABCI Malaysia.

Reforesting and connecting our parks

To date, ERKC has managed to nurture a total of 187 species of plants, comprising 35,000 seedlings and 10,000 tree saplings.

These are grown and stored at the Elmina Living Collection Nursery (ELCN), a specialist tree nursery and genetic storage site catered to the production and conservation of up to 100,000 native trees - including species categorised as ERT under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.

TRCRC’s team would survey various forest reserves and private lands to look for parent trees and signs of flowering or fruiting, before organising expeditions to bring seeds back to the nursery.

They are then germinated and kept as seedlings at ELCN until they are ready to be replanted back in the wild to support new ecosystems and restore existing habitats.

Students learning about biodiversity and why it matters, at ERKC.Students learning about biodiversity and why it matters, at ERKC.

The process provides a sustainable and continuous supply of native and ERT plant species for SDP’s reforestation efforts within COE and its many other townships across the country.

Many of the seedlings and saplings grown at ERKC have also been taken to other areas of Selangor for conservation efforts. Over a thousand have already been planted near the Klang Gates Dam along the Klang River so far.

This has put SDP well on track to achieve its objective of planting 50,000 IUCN red-listed trees by the year 2030.

To date, it has planted over 59,630 trees within COE, with some 10,265 of them being from ERT species.

“TRCRC’s expertise in rainforest conservation and research complements our mission to enhance community awareness on the benefits of co-existing with nature.

“Such collaborations can aid the plight of the Malaysian rainforest and hopefully make its conservation more accessible for people to participate in,” Azmir said.

To further that goal, the developer also established the “Friends of ERKC” community interest group which partners with TRCRC to run various biodiversity education programmes and activities.

This includes tree planting sessions, bird watches and botanical walks, all of which increase public knowledge on environmental issues and provide individuals with guidance on how to make meaningful contributions to conservation efforts.

Friends of ERKC also serves to educate communities about ERT species cultivated on-site, spark interest in all things nature, and celebrate the unique plant and bird species found in COE.

The community programmes run by TRCRC at ERKC has benefitted over 10,000 members which includes students, educators and various corporate and authority bodies.

Nurturing well-being

COE is the first themed development in Malaysia to embrace the concepts of “wellness and liveable city” in a holistic manner.

The sprawling, 6,500-acre master-planned design takes into account community wellness, environmental wellness, intellectual wellness, family wellness, occupational wellness, physical wellness, emotional wellness and mental wellness - to create a haven where individuals and families alike can embrace the wholesomeness of life.

Strategically set 20km west of Kuala Lumpur along the Guthrie Corridor Expressway (GCE), COE is expected to have a total population of 150,000 when fully completed.

The centrepiece of the development is the 300-acre Elmina Central Park, which comprises six sub-themed parks namely, the already-completed Community Park and Wildlife Park, the Urban Park, Forest Park and Sports Park which are currently under construction, as well as the Arts and Cultural Park that is set to kick off in the near term.

“The demand for green spaces in cities has never been greater. After the pandemic, the desire to live in well-planned environments with easy access to nature has increased tremendously, in some way, it redefines true luxury,” said Azmir.

“Urbanites are also becoming increasingly aware of the global environmental crisis and are more conscious of the brand choices that they make.

“We hope this collaborative approach to address environmental concerns would inspire other property and real estate players to think conscientiously about environmental conservation,” said Azmir.

“Building sustainable townships while nurturing healthy communities and ecosystems should be the way forward for property developments because it would in turn inspire residents and the public to care about and protect the environments they are living in, for a better future.”

To learn more about the Elmina Rainforest Knowledge Centre, visit the website

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