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July 26, 2012

Storm over iconic raintrees at Taiping Lake Gardens

TAIPING: A storm is brewing over the iconic raintrees at Taiping Lake Gardens, with a signature campaign gaining steam against a plan to develop the area.

Although the Taiping Municipal Council said none of the raintrees would be felled, the public and nature lovers are having none of it.

They fear the construction of several kiosks there would ultimately “threaten” the trees and harm the tranquil atmosphere at the park, said to be the country's oldest.

About 4,000 signatures have been collected since Sunday. Yesterday, the council announced that it would put on hold the plan to develop the Jalan Pekeliling stretch.

Chillin’ with nature: A man resting under a raintree at Taiping Lake Gardens. In the background behind the blue fencing is the hawker stalls project.
Council president Shahrom Datuk Abdul Malek said a final decision on the proposal to turn the area into a tourist centre would be made after the views of the people and experts had been sought.

Under the RM3.6mil plan, kiosks selling souvenirs and fast food would be built along a 600m stretch of the road that will be turned into a pedestrian walk.

“We have asked the Northern Corridor Implementation Authority to stop the project pending a final decision,” he said.

Campaign organiser Teh Kok Lim said the project would mar the scenic view of the lakes and affect the well-being of the iconic trees.

Taiping Mari! Facebook group administrator Lee Hui Seng said the plans could pave the way for other entertainment centres in the area.

“Sooner or later, we may have a mini Haadyai at Lake Gardens with Flemington Hotel as the nucleus,” he commented on the group's page.

Another user Kent Chin said cleanliness at the lake was already bad “and having kiosks there would only make it worse”.

Taiping-born Alven Loh took things further by organising his own online petition to protect the raintrees, collecting 650 signatures as at 11am yesterday.

Blogger N.K. Khoo said the picturesque scenery of the lake would be spoilt by the presence of hawker stalls.

Meanwhile, Perak Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Hamidah Osman expressed surprise over the proposed project.

“The matter was never brought up to the state executive council. I do not have any idea of such plans and their details.

“The lake gardens has its own unique identity and must be protected,” said Hamidah.

A check by The Star found that the proposed project site had been fenced up while the lakes located across the area appeared to be drying up due to the ongoing drought.

Taiping Lake Gardens was officially opened to the public by Perak's then British Resident Frank Swettenham on Nov 17, 1893.

Source: The Star