Win over residents with dialogue

ISLAND Glades is a popular middle-class residential area located within the housing enclave of Green Lane. It is one of the older housing estates outside the city centre. It was agricultural land, mainly rambutan and coconut plantation.

The first batch of houses was built in the 1960s. The initial cost was around RM20,000 each for a double-storey terrace house. Now, it is worth more than a million ringgit each. The price of a house has gone up by about 60 times!

The houses were built by Island and Peninsular Group. It comprises double-storey semi-detached, single-storey terraced and double-storey terraced houses.

The location is strategic. It is accessible to many schools, such as Convent Green Lane, Penang Free School, Chung Ling High School and Han Chiang High School. The nearest school in Island Glades is Hamid Khan Secondary School.

It is also accessible to the coastal highway, namely Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu highway which directly connects to the Penang Bridge.

There are coffee shops, grocery shops, pharmacies and a clinic. Furthermore, mosques, churches and temples are nearby. Lam Wah Ee Hospital is in close vicinity.

It is a sought-after housing area for young executives with families. Needless to say, since it is an established neighbourhood, there are many senior citizens too.

There are also high-rise residential apartments and condominiums, but they were built much later along the fringes of Island Glades.

Another plus point of Island Glades is that it has two parks within walking distance of each other. One of them is the Island Glades Park and the other one is known as Taman Kejiranan Karpal Singh, named in memory of the late one and only Karpal Singh, aptly nicknamed the Tiger of Jelutong. He was the member of Parliament for Bukit Gelugor for 10 years.

The two parks are well-used in the mornings and evenings because there are proper paths for people to walk or jog and mature trees to provide enough greenery and shade. There are also sporting facilities such as badminton courts and a covered basketball court as well as playgrounds for children.

Every morning from Mondays to Saturdays, one can see taichi and qi-gong groups doing their regular exercises diligently without fail, except when it rains. The teachers are caring and enthusiastic, and over the years, the groups have formed friendly and helpful communities.

At the Island Glades Park, some of the trees were planted by some long-time residents many years ago. They were the bamboo trees and other smaller medicinal plants. More importantly, over the years, the matured bamboo trees had provided shade for relaxation, especially for the elderly residents.

But recently an untoward tree-cutting incident happened at this park prompting the residents' representative with 92 signatories to write to the press and the relevant authorities. They said that they were not even informed of the total removal of the bamboo trees.

The city council cut down and removed the four clusters of matured bamboo trees that had been there for years as well as some smaller plants.

After about 10 years of showering tender loving care on the plants and trees, the residents have developed a sense of ownership and pride over them. It is understandable that they feel the loss.

On the other hand, it is the council's responsibility to manage and maintain the parks. The land belongs to the council. In this case, the council might want a change to spruce up the park. It might want a neater park in mind as bamboo trees are not easy to maintain as compared to other ornamental trees, like the 10 garcinia-subelliptica trees planted as a replacement.

The tree-cutting incident need not have escalated to such an emotional situation. The residents' reactions should have been viewed positively.

Ideally, a public park should be able to be used fairly and effectively by everyone. There should be collaborative partnership with those in the government and those at the grassroots for open dialogue sessions and negotiations so that they work together as a team and not against each other, for the good and needs of the local community.

Green liveable cities are on the rise. More and more urban planners value the importance of open green areas or spaces where people can take in fresh air, exercise and walk. This is part of what makes healthy and sustainable cities.

Datuk Dr Goh Ban Lee is interested in urban governance, housing and urban planning. Comments: