Harmonising urban biodiversity and people

A TRCRC guide explaining the seed germination process to SMK Seafield teachers and students at the ELCN.

TRUE to its commitment of advancing urban biodiversity, Sime Darby Property is dedicated to the preservation, regeneration and strengthening of healthy ecosystems in all its townships and developments.

Its urban biodiversity efforts testify to the harmonious coexistence between humans, flora and fauna while its forward-thinking nature-based solutions not only build resilience and safeguard communities and ecosystems of the future, but also enriches the quality of life of everything and everyone.

The company’s efforts to implement good biodiversity practices focusing on conservation actions, research and development, environmental education, eco-tourism and other green initiates are prominently showcased in the Elmina Rainforest Knowledge Centre (ERKC).

Housed within the City of Elmina in Shah Alam, Selangor, ERKC was founded in 2020 in partnership with the Tropical Rainforest Conservation & Research Centre (TRCRC), a non-profit organisation dedicated to rainforest research and conservation in Malaysia.

The partnership supports long-term reforestation projects and hands-on biodiversity education for the community living in and around the City of Elmina.

In addition to tree planting, ERKC oversees integrated approaches to urban planning, striking a balance between the requirements of society and the health of the ecosystem.

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

Positioned as the ‘Gateway to Malaysia’s Natural Heritage’, ERKC aims to connect communities within and beyond the City of Elmina to Malaysia’s natural heritage.

These remarkable’s efforts have rightfully earned ERKC the esteemed FIABCI World Prix d’Excellence Awards 2024, Silver Winner in the Environmental Category.

Sime Darby Property group managing director Datuk Azmir Merican said the achievement is a testament to the company’s credibility in advancing urban biodiversity and further establishes it as a formidable force for good in the global property market.

“We have embarked on a journey of discovery to explore concepts that push the boundaries in the world of property development. We are proud to be recognised by esteemed industry experts on an international scale, validating the path we have chosen.

“We will remain dedicated to keep innovating and stay adaptable to the industry’s mega trends while striving to raise the bar,” he enthused.

He added that Sime Darby Property” Sustainability Framework is aligned with the United Nations’s Sustainable Development Goals, to spearhead efforts in upholding ESG principles.

“The pandemic has sparked an increased demand for green spaces in cities and the desire to live in well-planned environments with easy access to nature.

“The establishment of ERKC is one of the many examples of our commitment to invest in developments that are sustainable in the long term. This is in line with our Purpose to be a Value Multiplier for People, Businesses, Economies and the Planet,” he elaborated.

The future of sustainability

Located adjacent to the 2,700-acre Bukit Cerakah Forest Reserve within the 300-acre Central Park in the City of Elmina, ERKC champions a sustainable township where people and nature co-exist in harmony in an inclusive living environment.

The focus here is on replanting an urban rainforest in the Central Park to improve urban biodiversity, help mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon and to create an environment that provides opportunities to learn about the importance of nature.

In essence, the reforestation project is carried out to connect communities with Mother Nature as well as to raise awareness on the plight of the Malaysian rainforest, and hopefully make rainforest conservation accessible to all.

The purpose of ERKC isn’t profit or investment returns, focusing on a more substantial agenda that includes fostering urban biodiversity through concerted conservation action, research and development.

The establishment of ERKC is in line with our Purpose to be a Value Multiplier for People, Businesses, Economies and the Planet, says Azmir.The establishment of ERKC is in line with our Purpose to be a Value Multiplier for People, Businesses, Economies and the Planet, says Azmir.

This encompasses enhancing ecological functionality, promoting environmental education, advancing eco-tourism, and other sustainable initiatives.

ERKC is also in line with the company’s mission towards its environmental objectives, especially in regard to planting 50,000 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red-listed trees by the year 2030.

Overall, Sime Darby Property has planted over 59,650 trees within the City of Elmina to help mitigate the effects of climate change, of which more than 10,265 are from the ERT (Endangered, Rare & Threatened) species.

To further spark interest on all things nature, the ‘Friends of ERKC’ was established to engage residents in biodiversity education programmes such as tree planting, bird watching and botanical walks.

These initiatives aim to raise public awareness of environmental issues and provide guidance on how to make meaningful contributions to conservation efforts.

The Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum) found at the City of Elmina helps disperse small fruit seeds and aids plant pollination. – Photo by Izereen MukriThe Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum) found at the City of Elmina helps disperse small fruit seeds and aids plant pollination. – Photo by Izereen Mukri

To date, ERKC has attracted over 10,000 people, including students, educators, corporate and authority bodies to further understand the City of Elmina’s efforts for biodiversity restoration.

This all-nature centre has set the benchmark to inspire other property developers, residents and public alike to care and protect the environment they are living in for a more sustainable future.

In short, Sime Darby Property believes that the sustainability journey is not just about doing less harm, but it is about doing more good.

“It is about embracing a mindset of continuous improvement, pushing boundaries and leading by example. The significance of these changes extends beyond Sime Darby Property; it is a ripple effect that influences the entire industry, inspiring others to follow suit and collectively contribute to a more sustainable world,” said Azmir.

Co-existing with nature

There is no denying that urban communities have been disconnected from nature in recent years. A core philosophy of the City of Elmina is to integrate nature and wellness into every aspect of its residents’ lives.

A facility like ERKC is much needed to encourage the community to build close connections with nature, enhancing emotional well-being while the tree conservation efforts promotes environmental wellness.

ERKC provides a space for residents to engage in impactful nature conservation activities and educates the younger generation on the importance of nature.

Besides boosting environmental literacy and ensuring a continuous supply of native and endangered trees for the City of Elmina and other Sime Darby Property’s townships, ERKC is also a hub for research as well as a co-working space for forestry NGOs and related bodies.

Pivotal to ERKC is the creation of the Elmina Central Park which is being repopulated with diverse species of native forest trees that originated from the Bukit Cerakah Forest Reserve.

Sime Darby Property strives to facilitate urban biodiversity by transforming the Central Park, divided into six sub-theme parks of Forest Park, Arts & Cultural Park, Urban Park, Community Park, Wildlife Park and Sports Park, into an extension of the forest reserve.

Since it began operations in Oct 2020, ERKC has managed to nurture a total 187 species of plants, including 35,000 seedlings in its germination and 10,000 tree saplings stored in its holding area.

The pilot initiative by Sime Darby Property to address environmental concerns, ERKC has indeed paved the way for building sustainable townships while nurturing healthy communities and ecosystems.

Elmina Living Collection Nursery (ELCN)

Adjacent to ERKC is the 10-acre ELCN, a specialist tree nursery and genetic storage for the production and conservation of native tree species, including those categorised as ERT under the IUCN.

ERT seedlings are nurtured in this nursery before they are returned to the natural ecosystem to support new ecosystems and restore existing habitats not only in the City of Elmina but also external parties to aid in reforestation efforts.

The trees are grown from seeds sourced from various forest reserves and private lands. The entire process of sourcing and rearing trees is part of the nursery’s conservation and reforestation endeavours.

The TRCRC team will look for suitable locations with mature trees to secure the seed source. As the trees flower and fruit, the team collects seeds and bring them to the nursery.

The seeds are then germinated and kept as seedlings in TRCRC’s living collection nurseries until they are ready to be replanted back in the wild.

Seedlings are categorised, sorted and labelled.

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