Thursday, January 26, 2017

Labour of love than spanned the decades

This bamboo grove could well be the oldest in a public park in the capital
THIS is probably one of the oldest bamboo grove in the Perdana Botanical Garden. There are two clumps actually, if viewed at an angle of 90 degrees to where this was painted. In fact, this is one of the features of this public park that has not changed over the last three decades.
In the 1970s, when I was still in my teens, I used to visit the Lake Gardens (as it was then known) during the school holidays.
This was because in those days, there were few such places that has several attractions within walking distance of each other. It was also one of those places accessible by public transport.
Those days, there was only a clump of bamboo trees on the circular man-made island. At the time, this lake was known as Sydney Lake.
According to G.M. Gullick (Kuala Lumpur, 1880-1895), the parkland was originally a valley of secondary forest irrigated by Sungai Bras-Bras.
Then, Selangor State Treasurer A.R. Venning had proposed to Swettenham that a botanical park be built in the roughly 173-acre land. 
Venning’s labour of love spanned 10 years and sparked public interest and received support.
Cantonese community leader Chow Ah Yeok was said to have contributed 100 white cempaka and orange trees to the project in 1888. A contractor named Gordon was engaged to dam the river and turn the lower part of the valley into a lake.
On May 13, 1889, Governor of the Straits Settlements Sir Cecil Clementi Smith declared open the Lake Gardens. Mrs Swettenham was given the honour to cut the ribbon and the lake was named Sydney Lake, after her maiden name.
However, the original man-made lake was short-lived. Two years after the opening, the bund that held the man-made lake collapsed and had to be reconstructed.
In 1975, the Lake Gardens was renamed Taman Tasik Perdana, (Perdana Lake Gardens) by then Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak. The lake became known as Tasik Perdana. Boat rowing facilities were also introduced after the re-launching ceremony on March 1, 1975, starting with colourful oar-powered skiffs, and later pedal-boats.
The fee back then was one ringgit for an hour’s spin around the lake. On popular days such as weekends and public holidays, long queues could be seen waiting for a ride.
The Perdana Lake Gardens was again renamed the Perdana Botanical Gardens on June 28, 2011 by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Over the few years, many other botanical attractions have been added to enhance this tourist attraction. They included sections containing indigenous fruit trees, local herbs and even a garden dedicated to the ginger family.
Much care has been taken of the lake as well, as seen during my recent trip there. Several aerators are placed at the lower end of this lake, which holds a few common species of local fish, to increase its oxygen level. There’s also a boat mounted with a cleaning sieve in front that was used to clean up the flotsam of broken twigs and leaves.
According to the signages, a huge part of the park is also a WiFi zone.
On the island, under the bamboo grove, I spotted a family of local ducks preening in the sun. I was told by a park worker that they were released by the council.
However, I also spotted a couple of what I thought to be crows flying out of the bamboo grove until they swooped down to forage by a small drain about a 100 metres away.
Imagine my surprise when my camera’s zoom lenses revealed the identities of the birds which I later found out to be a species of ibis, possibly Hadeda ibis, which is not indigenous. I was even more surprised when I called the park office to find out about these birds. Apparently these birds were not local nor were they released by the park authority.

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