THE Penang Botanic Gardens Department will build a multi-storey car park at the current food court that is located opposite its premises when the first of seven major projects, called the Central Visitor Centre, kicks off under the Penang Botanic Gardens Special Area Plan (SAP).
State Local Government, Housing, Town and Country Planning chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said it was now time for the implementation of the plan which took a very long process before it was gazetted by the State Planning Committee on July 4.
“Towards that end, we have to materialise and realise whatever we had planned. The master plan covers the build-up area of about 25 lawns, which we will give priority to seven priority projects in the SAP,” Jagdeep told a press conference at the Penang Botanic Gardens Department today.
“The multi-storey car park will help reduce congestion. We want to start work as soon as possible, with the Central Visitor Centre as the first project probably this year. It will entail quite some cost and we will work out the time frame.”
The seven major projects are divided into two categories – the Entrance Redevelopment and Frontage Enhancement and the Old Garden Improvement and Development.
Under the Entrance Redevelopment and Frontage Enhancement, the Central Visitor Centre will start off as Project 1, followed by Plant Conversation and Research Centre (Project 2), Malaysiana Boulevard (Project 3), Garden Mall Restoration (Project 4), Nature’s Amphitheatre (Project 5) while under the Old Garden Improvement and Development, there are two key projects, namely the Service Yard Facilities, Nursery and Irrigation System (Project 6) and Viewing Tower and Viewing Deck (Project 7).
According to Penang Botanic Gardens curator Dr Saw Leng Guan, the redevelopment of the food court to a multi-storey car park would also see a new main gate set up there, about 700m down the road from the existing main gate.
“A lot of people thought that the Penang Botanic Gardens starts from the current main gate, but it actually starts from here (Penang Botanic Gardens Department),” he said.
The Penang Botanic Gardens, which is the oldest garden in Malaysia built in 1884, covers 212ha of land – the bulk of which is for conservation.
Asked about whether regular users would be affected by the plan, Dr Saw said they would highly respect the locals’ wishes after having done a stringent review and obtaining input from both Friends of the Gardens, the public, academicians and botanists from the region.
“We must not forget our historical roots. We went through another round of stringent review, also had a town hall meeting and got feedback from the proposals that we had,” Dr Saw said.
“Although we may cater to international tourists, the majority of our visitors are locals. Thousands of our people come here to walk and exercise in the morning and evening and we will certainly put more effort to make sure that their experience here will continue to be good.
“We want to continue to make them happy. That is why we take cognizance of complaints and added more toilet facilities.
“We want to support the people of Penang. We want the Botanic Gardens to be the premier location for the people. This is like a pearl in the oyster. How special this place is.”
Dr Saw paid tribute to Charles Curtis, the first curator of the Penang Botanic Gardens, for single-handedly collected a lot of plants for research, adding that a number of their botanic names that are described in Peninsular Malaysia actually came from his collection.
Jagdeep thanked him for his splendid work, commending him for being one of the top five recipients of the prestigious Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) Medal for his excellence as a taxonomist and the key role he has played in conservation over the past 30 years.
Looking further, Jagdeep said the department would aim to be listed as a UNESCO heritage garden like the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London, and the Rio de Janeiro Botanic Garden in Brazil.
“When the curator of the Singapore Botanic Garden, Dr Nigel Taylor, was invited here, he was confident that the Penang Botanic Gardens has the potential to be listed as a UNESCO heritage garden.
“All the three UNESCO heritage gardens are all man-made and he was shocked that ours is a natural botanic garden. And our Botanic Gardens has Penang Hill as the backdrop.
“I’m very excited. Can you imagine if this can become a UNESCO world heritage botanic gardens? I believe it has the potential and now is the time for us to execute the plan,” said Jagdeep.
Also present at the press conference were [email protected] Pinang director Datuk Idris Abdul Rahim and his deputy Mohd Bashir Sulaiman, MBPP president Datuk Yew Tung Seang and MBPP secretary Datuk Addnan Mohd Razali.
Story by K.H. Ong
Pix by Alvie Cheng