KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today announced that a national public trust named Amanah Warisan Negara (AWAN) will hold and manage the Taman Tugu.
The 66-acre Taman Tugu park site in the heart of the city will be placed under the trust in perpetuity as an urban forest park for Malaysians to enjoy, said Najib.
He said the government had also approved an additional 25 acres of adjacent land to be allocated for the Taman Tugu project, bringing the total land area to 91 acres.
"Together with the nearby Perdana Botanical Garden, the total land area will total 331 acres.
"This will make Taman Tugu comparable to Hyde Park in London and other green lungs in major first-world cities such as New York City," he said during a tree-planting ceremony at Taman Tugu this afternoon in conjunction with Hari Hasanah.
Najib said the Taman Tugu project is very close to his heart as it a National Transformation 2050 (TN50) project meant for the future generation.
He noted that from the many TN50 dialogues, one of the recurring themes is that people want a clean environment
and to live in a liveable city.
"This Taman Tugu project has the underlined support of the Malaysian people despite initial opposition by some.
"But after Khazanah engaged them, they understood and supported the project," he said.
Najib said 1,000 species of trees will be planted amidst camping, running and hiking sites in the park.
He said the tree species will be specially chosen to reflect the nation's heritage right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
"People will no longer have to go to faraway places to appreciate nature's diversity," he said.
Najib said the project, alongside the River of Life (RoL) project which seeks to transform the Klang and Gombak rivers, are testament to Malaysia being ranked as among the best places in the world to retire.
In March, Malaysia was ranked sixth in the Annual Global Retirement Index, compiled by the experts at International Living (IL), edging out the likes of Portugal, Nicaragua and Spain.
At the same time, he also announced a design competition for gazebos and benches to be placed in Taman Tugu.
The competition is being organised in collaboration with Institute of Landscape Architects Malaysia and will be open to all Malaysians.
The Taman Tugu project was launched by Najib exactly a year ago today (Sept 4) as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project by strategic investment fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd in conjunction of its 25th anniversary celebration, which is slated for 2019.
Also present were during the event were former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his wife Tun Jeanne Abdullah; Khazanah managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar; Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Seri Mohd Amin Nordin Abd Aziz; and CIMB Group chairman Datuk Seri Nazir Razak.
The transformation of the Tugu Negara is a collaboration between Khazanah and Kuala Lumpur City Hall, supported by other agencies including the Federal Territories Ministry, Economic Planning Unit, Public-Private Partnership Unit, Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) and non-governmental organisation Malaysian Nature Society (MNS).
The first phase of the RM650 million project is expected to be ready by mid-2018.
Upon completion, it will provide additional publicly accessible green space for the community between Taman Tugu and its surrounding areas.
The project complements the 11th Malaysia Plan as well as Greater Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley initiatives to transform Kuala Lumpur into a world-class city by 2020, by among others, enhancing its pedestrian network.