Five Recommendations for the Taman Tugu project

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 7th of September, 2016

Five Recommendations for the Taman Tugu project

The announcement of the Taman Tugu project[1] last weekend by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has received mixed reactions from the public. As a regular jogger along the “double hill” route which goes past Tugu Negara[2] (See Figure 1 below) and in the nearby Lake Gardens / Taman Botani[3], here are my five recommendations for this project.

Figure 1: Part of the Double Hill 12km loop which goes past Tugu Negara

1) Taman Tugu must be cost effective and transparent

I echo the concerns expressed by my colleague, Rafizi Ramli, on the high cost of this project, estimated by RM650 million, 75% of which or RM500 million, will be paid for by Khazanah.[4] Many people have asked why such a large amount of money needs to be spent on an urban park while overseas JPA scholarships have been cancelled and allocation to public universities have been cut.[5] Even though the majority of the expenditure will come from Khazanah and not from the government budget, since Khazanah is 100% owned by the Ministry of Finance, it is necessary for both Khazanah as well as the Minister of Finance, namely the Prime Minister, to explain why this expenditure is necessary in the context of significant budget cuts in other areas.

In addition, since Khazanah is technically a private company, and not a government department, it does not have to go through the normal tender processes that most ministries have to adhere to via eperolehan.[6] To assure the public that the expenditure on the Taman Tugu project is transparent and cost-effective, it should make all significant contracts via open tender and to announce the results publicly.

2) Taman Tugu must be free to the public

The Taman Tugu project is actually not a new project. It was announced as one of the Entry Point Projects (EPP7: Creating Iconic Places and Attractions) under the Greater KL National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs) way back in 2010. The initial project was to “create a Malaysia Truly Asia Center (MRAC), an integrated cultural tourism park managed by Themed Attraction Resorts, a subsidiary of Khazanah Nasional.[7] This project was suspended in August 2014 because of ongoing land issues.[8] There was also initial speculation that this attraction would be part of a leisure and tourism entity that would be listed by Khazanah.[9]

Now that it has been revived under the Taman Tugu project, Khazanah must reassure that public that accessibility to this park will be free of charge. While there may be parts of the park where the public may have to pay to use certain services (such as a proposed outdoor adventure area featuring rope courses and a flying fox), the majority of the park must be free of charge to use. This is the model used by the Central Park in New York where access to certain attractions such as the zoo require an entrance fee but the majority of the park is free to use.[10]

The initial masterplan of Taman Tugu seem to indicate that most of the park are green spaces that are open for public access (See Figure 2 below).

3) Taman Tugu must allow existing users continued access to recreational facilities

I am glad to note that Padang Merbok is not park of the area that has been designation as part of Taman Tugu. Many groups use Padang Merbok especially during the weekends for various recreational activities including rugby, football, bootcamp and as a start and finish point for runs (See Figure 3 below). Places such as Padang Merbok must be preserved for public access. Khazanah should ensure that public access to popular jogging routes such as the aforementioned “Double Hill” route is allowed even during the construction phase of Taman Tugu. Better still, Khazanah should consult the various groups which use Padang Merbok and the surrounding areas for recreation activities so that their inputs can be used to enhance the facilities in and surrounding Taman Tugu.

Figure 2: Masterplan of the Taman Tugu Project[11]

Figure 3: One of the many runs which use Padang Merbok as a start and finishing point

4) Must be integrated and accessible

I am glad to note that the Taman Tugu masterplan has taken into consideration the issue of connectivity to public transportation and other nearby recreational attractions such as Muzium Negara, Lake Gardens and the KL Bird Park, just to name a few (See Figure 4 below).

Figure 4: Connectivity of Taman Tugu to other attractions and public transportation[12]

But this is not sufficient. For example, according to google maps, it takes 35 minutes to walk from the Bank Negara KTM station to Tugu Negara via the proposed pedestrian walkway showed in Figure 4 and 30 minutes to walk via Jalan Parlimen (See Figure 5 below).

Not many Malaysians would be willing to walk that far (even if the walkway is covered). In addition, not many people would be willing to use the KTM Komuter services (30 minutes during peak hours and 60 minutes during non-peak hours, according to KTM’s latest announcement on its twitter feed[13]). Khazanah needs to provide for better public transportation to Taman Tugu than what is currently on its Taman Tugu website.

Figure 5: Walking time and distance from the Bank Negara KTM to Tugu Negara

5) Taman Tugu must be sustainably managed

Finally, Khazanah must reveal its plan on how Taman Tugu will be managed. Taman Tugu should not be managed as a for-profit endeavour in order to ensure continued free public access. At the same time, it must also be run sustainably so that its maintenance costs can be covered. One possible model is the Central Park Conservancy, a private not for profit entity, which has a long term contract to manage Central Park in New York.[14]

Initial reports indicate that Taman Tugu will be placed under a public trust and that it will be preserved as a green lung in perpetuity.[15] Details of this trust and the management of Taman Tugu should be announced as soon as possible in order to assure the public that this project is not a money making venture but a project which will truly benefit the public.

I call upon Khazanah to honour the promise of its Managing Director, Azman Mokhtar who said that Khazanah will be “embarking on a public outreach program through multiple channels to seek feedback and suggestions from the public at large, as well as broadening the number of development partners and donors”.[16] I hope that this will be a sincere public outreach effort and not an empty public relations exercise.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang







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The River of Life (RoL) project has a long way to go

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 20th of January, 2016

The River of Life (RoL) project has a long way to go

On the 11th of November, 2015, I organized a kayak expedition down a portion of the Gombak River that is part of the River of Life (RoL) project.

I wrote about my expedition in 5 facebook postings in December 2015 which were republished in Malaysiakini:

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:

Now, a short 7 minute video of my kayak expedition can be access here:

The release of this youtube video is a timely reminder of how far the River of Life (RoL) project has to go before the Klang and Gombak rivers can be classified as a Class IIB river that is fit for recreational activities.

Just last week, on Thursday, 14th of January, 2016, Jeffrey Lim, an avid cyclists and one of the members of my kayak expedition discovered a worrying number of dead fish along the Klang River while he was cycling near Brickfields. (See Appendix 1 below)

Jeff, who later tried to trace the source of the dead fish, concluded that the dead fish had originated further upstream, past Kampung Pauh along the Gombak River. (The photos shown below are from Jeff)

The dead fish, which may have died as a result of upstream pollution, is especially worrying given that many people eat and sell the fish they catch along the Gombak and Klang Rivers. It is a common sight to see fishermen using a rod or even fishing nets to catch fish along the Gombak and Klang rivers. (See Appendix 2 below)

I call upon the Department of Environment (DoE) to investigate the source of the dead fish and to determine if there was and still is serious pollution happening upstream along the Gombak River that may be poisoning the fish in the river. If there is no effort to monitor the level of pollution in the Gombak and Klang Rivers, the estimated RM3.4 billion that will be spend to clean up the river will be wasted.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

Appendix 1: Photos of Dead Fish discovered on Thursday, 14th of January, 2016

Appendix 2: People catching fish along the Gombak River

Malaysia’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) shows a lack of commitment and coordination towards addressing climate change challenges

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 1st of December, 2015

Malaysia’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) shows a lack of commitment and coordination towards addressing climate change challenges

In Malaysia’s last minute Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submission, just days before the start of the UN Climate Change Conference or COP 21 in Paris, Malaysia set an ambitious goal of reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity of GDP by 45% by 2030 relative to the emissions intensity of GDP in 2005. A target of a 35% reduction was set unconditionally while a further 10% reduction is contingent upon receiving sufficient climate change related financing, technology transfer and capacity building assistance from developed countries.[1] While these targets sound laudable, Malaysia’s approach towards COP21 shows a lack of commitment from the top leadership in the country and Malaysia’s INDC shows a lack of coordination among the important ministries that are involved in the climate change issue. This calls into question the credibility of the commitments made by Malaysia to reduce its GHG emissions intensity.

The launch of COP 21 in Paris was attended by 142 Heads of States and Governments including President Barack Obama, President Xi Jin Ping, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Joko Widodo, President Dilma Rouseff and Chancellor Angela Merkel. All the heads of states and governments were given an opportunity to make statements regarding their respective positions on climate change and to demonstrate their commitment to the climate change agenda.[2] Prime Minister Najib’s decision not to attend COP 21 sends a signal to the international community that Malaysia does not see itself as a key player in the battle against global warming.

Najib’s failure to take the lead on the climate change agenda is not merely restricted to his no-show in Paris. He has not made any major speeches on the issue of climate change domestically or internationally in 2015 (to date). His latest domestic speech on climate change was delivered at the Energy for Tomorrow conference organized by the New York Times in Kuala Lumpur on the 19th of November, 2014.[3] His latest speech on climate change was at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York on the 23rd of September, 2014.[4] PM Najib has not launched any significant domestic policy to demonstrate Malaysia’s commitment to the climate change agenda in 2015.

Just to use a counter-example, PM Najib’s golfing buddy, President Obama visited Alaska in September 2015 as part of a larger agenda to show the serious impact of global warming.[5] President Obama also launched the Clean Power Plant initiative to reduce GHG emissions from power generation plants.[6] And he has made the climate change agenda one of the main areas of negotiations and cooperation in his foreign policy vis-à-vis China and India.

Najib’s lack of a leadership role in the climate change agenda is made more serious by the fact that the previous Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE), G. Palanivel, was totally negligent in addressing key issues in the environmental agenda including GHG emissions. In my 2 years in parliament when he was a Minister, I did not see or hear him once answering a question pertaining to his Ministry or taking part in the important budget debates relating to his ministry. And I am not confident that the new Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE), Wan Junaidi, has the necessary grasp of the key issues surrounding climate change and GHG emissions. When I questioned him on the 16th of November, 2015 as to why Malaysia was only one of two countries in South East Asia (the other being Brunei) which had not submitted its INDCs, he replied that Malaysia was still waiting for a decision to be made by a contact group that had met in Dubai the previous week. (See Appendix 1 below) Perhaps he didn’t realize that Malaysia’s own INDC is a domestically determined target that should be set based on parameters and factors within the country rather than to be dictated by a ‘contact group’ comprising of other unnamed nations. I am not sure what conditions this group set that were reflected in Malaysia’s INDC which was eventually released on the 27th of November, 2015. But I am almost certain that there was not much discussion about our INDC in the cabinet which had met earlier on the same day.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment should play the important role as the coordinating agency for GHG emissions and climate change policy. There are many other ministries and agencies which have key roles to play in any strategy to reduce GHG emissions intensity including the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA), the Ministry for Urban Well-Being, Housing and Local Government (KPKT), the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI), the Prime Minister’s Department (JPM), the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities, the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Agricultural and Agro-Industries, just to name a few. The lack of coordination and planning between the various ministries and agencies was already highlighted in the Strategy Paper on Climate Resilience Development in the 11th Malaysian Plan.[7] What is severely lacking in Malaysia’s INDC was a sense of the overall coordination in strategies and polices to reduce GHG emissions intensity. Specific targets and policies from the relevant ministries and their contribution towards GHG emissions intensity were missing from Malaysia’s INDC. Without these targets and policies, the likelihood of Malaysia missing our overall INDC target of a 45% reduction in GHG emissions intensity is increased. Without strategic coordination between the ministries, the likelihood of inconsistent climate change policies also increases.

Just to highlight one important example in the area of power generation. Power generation contributes more than 50% of the total CO2 emissions in Malaysia mostly through coal and to a lesser extent, gas fired power generation plants.[8] One way to reduce GHG emissions intensity would be to shift away from using polluting power generation technology such as coal and to move towards renewable energy such as solar, biomass and biogas. But according to the Energy Commission, which has to plan for the overall electricity supply needs of the country, coal power is expected to generate 64% of the fuel mix in 2020 (up from 56% in 2016) while renewable energy is projected to only contribute 3% of the overall fuel mix all the way up to 2024 (Appendix 2 below).

In contrast, the Sustainable Energy Development Authority projects that Renewable Energy will make up 11% of the fuel mix by 2020 and 17% by 2030 (Appendix 3 below). If KeTTHA cannot coordinate between these conflicting published targets involving the largest GHG emissions producing sector, how can we trust that Malaysia can reach its announced target of a 45% reduction in GHG emissions intensity?

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

Appendix 1: Question to and reply from Wan Junaidi in parliament as to why Malaysia still had not submitted its INDC as of the 16th of November 2015.

Source: Parliament Hansard, 16th of November 2015

Appendix 2: Projected Generation Fuel mix by the Energy Commission (2014 to 2024)

Source: Peninsular Malaysia Electricity Supply Outlook 2014, published by the Energy Commission

Appendix 3: Power Mix of Renewable Energy (2011 to 2030)

Source: Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA)