UNDER ITS NOSE:The field right in front of the Kepong City Hall branch left to the ‘lalang’ for over four years
A FIELD that was once the centre of activity for Jinjang's youngsters and retirees has been allowed to become overgrown with lalang in the last four years.
The irony is that the field comes under the jurisdiction of the City Hall Kepong branch office -- which is located right opposite.
The field was dug up five years ago by the Department of Drainage and Irrigation (DiD) contractors to lay an underground culvert to channel floodwater from Taman Sri Segambut to Taman Wahyu.
When the project was completed a year later, the contractors did not restore the field to its original condition.
A Streets visit recently found the 0.1ha field overgrown with lalang up to 1.5m tall, providing cover for several uncovered manholes, some 2m deep. Gravel used in construction were scattered about.
The only part of the field which sees any use are its fringes. People who come to the neighbouring City Hall vehicle depot, fire brigade and post office use them as convenient parking spots.
What is surprising is that while City Hall workers had recently planted 100 tree saplings at the park, they had appeared to ignore the general rundown state of the field.
City Hall landscape architect R. Vijayakumar said the authority was aware of the field's condition.
"I can't say how long we have been aware of the problem but the space is right in front of the branch office.
"The workers or contractors who were involved in tree-planting should have also noted the problem and tried to find out what was going on," he admitted at a press conference at the gazebo set amid the overgrown lalang on the field.
The press conference was organised by Kepong Community Centre head Yee Poh Ping, here, recently.
"I only came to know about the issue two days ago, when I was assigned to attend this meeting as my director had another appointment," Vijayakumar said, clarifying that there was confusion on the land status.
"The officers here have told me that they held talks with DiD and tried to get answers on the land status and usage," he said, adding that the branch officers themselves were at loggerheads with DiD as the project, which required the field to be sealed, was delayed for a long time before it took off.
He said the department would do a land search to confirm City Hall's ownership of the plot and to check if it is to be used for other projects.
"The check should take about a month. If the land is still listed as open space meant for public recreation, we will develop the field into a pocket park with a budget of RM200,000 to RM300,000," he said, adding that if the budget were available, the construction would take about three months.
Vijayakumar said the park would have, among others, benches, a jogging track, a designated spot for tai chi, a surau and possibly even a basketball court.
Hai Ah Hong, 63, said he was glad that something was finally being done to improve the park he used to routinely visit.
"It's been a long time, but if they can get it done within the next few months, it would be good. If it is left abandoned like this, developers can make a claim that the land is abandoned and buy it. That would be the end of our open space.
"No one will walk here as there are stray dogs, mosquitoes and spiky weeds that stick to your legs and clothes," said the retiree.
Lee Kim Fatt, 76, who is the Warga Pelita Jinjang, Kepong and Batu Caves president, said senior citizen groups like his were denied the use of the park for their tai chi sessions, residents' meetings and neighbourhood get-togethers.
Yee said the field was a classic outcome of a project that was not properly monitored. City Hall needs to monitor projects on public land, he said.
"Even if the project is carried out by another government agency, City Hall has the obligation to monitor works so that everything goes according to plan and the field is returned in good condition," he said.
Yee said agreements made between City Hall, government or private agencies should also be revealed to the public.
"A meeting should be called for even at the proposal stage so that everything is clear and transparent," he said, adding that the park previously served more than 50,000 people.