Of trees and towers

I grew up in quaint old Sentul in the 1980s and then moved to a rustic feeling Segambut in the late 1980s, both located within Kuala Lumpur (KL). I studied at the same little school in Sentul for eleven years and then spent another two years at a huge one located in Setapak. I went for tuition with teachers as close as Sentul and as far away as Bangsar. I ended up furthering my studies at a university located within KL. Simply said, I would travel within KL, for any number of things from new clothes to books, attending prayers at the temples, visits to the hospitals and the library, changing buses while travelling between different parts of KL and much more. I pretty much spent the better part of my first twenty or so  years in and around KL and still do today.

One of the many things that I enjoyed and probably took for granted back then, were the many humongous and ancient trees that could be found almost everywhere I went within KL. I loved looking out of the bus, upon the vibrant green trees that lined most if not all the main roads in the city. I liked the feel of the contrasting interchange, between the hot sun on my skin and the cool shade offered by the trees as I took the long walk from school to the bus stop. I appreciated the silent sanctuary offered by the tree in my school, with the silence being punctuated by the whisper of the wind as it rustled through the leaves on a windy morning.

Source: Wikipedia

Basically, trees have been a huge part of the scene in KL. It is said, that the name of the township of Sentul, originated from the Sentul or Santol tree[1][2]. To know more about the Sentul tree, one can look it up at FRIM or Wikipedia. Sentul, just like most parts of KL back then, was green with all sorts of trees, both tall and short that grew among the many rows of terrace houses as well as  the KTM railway quarters. The trees could also be found at the edges of the fields of most schools and housing areas that dotted Sentul. They were also to be found around the many flats along Jalan Sentul and within Bandar Baru Sentul. They grew in the compounds of the numerous places of worship that one can find all over Sentul. They were simply all over Sentul, just like most parts of KL back then.

Source: Pexels

These days though, the scenery in Sentul is different. Depending on whom one speaks with, Sentul has lost some or much of its greenery. Sentul, has been going through massive transformation, starting back in the 1990s when the KTM railway quarters and surrounding settlements were demolished and tracts of land belonging to KTM were developed. This transformation is still ongoing today, with the area that used to house the KTM railway quarters being developed by YTL and other parts further north being developed by various other developers[3]. Lost in this transformation of Sentul, other than the people who used to live in the old KTM railway quarters and the various settlements around Sentul, were the old trees and shrubbery that gave Sentul its green shades.

Source: Pexels

Just like Sentul, much of KL underwent a massive transformation during the 1990s and through the new millenium. The skyline of KL changed drastically in the 1990s with a lot of huge and often towering projects within the city area and its suburbs. Among the major changes to the KL skyline in the 1990s, was the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) development where one today can find majestic towers. KLCC was built on a site that used to house the Selangor Turf Club, various residential buildings and much greenery[4].

During that same period of time, one can’t help think that KL was one huge and towering construction site. Many things were being constructed within KL and its suburbs during the 1990s and through the new millennium. Among these were the construction of the first two LRT lines known then as the STAR and Putra LRT[5][6], the first MRT line [7], the National Sports Complex in Bulit Jalil[8], the redevelopment of Brickfields as part of the KL Sentral development[9], the KL Tower[10and much more. Today, in the 2010s, KL once more has the feel of one huge construction site with the ongoing work on the MRT projects[11], development in Bangsar South[12and many others. Again, just like Sentul, lost in this ongoing transformation of KL, were the old trees and shrubbery that coloured much of KL green, among others.

Source: Wikipedia

What is ironic though, is that in the midst of the now completed or ongoing developments, which resulted in the loss of precious and ancient trees in the first place, one can again find some greenery. Gone are the majestic and towering old trees. Replaced they are, with well planned and manicured shrubbery surrounded by young trees, that grew from what would have been newly planted saplings, together with water features consisting of pools and mini lakes.

For instance, nestled within the towering buildings and a mosque in the KLCC area, one can find pools and lush greenery offered by the shady sanctuary of the KLCC Park. Similarly, surrounded by metal, glass and concrete towers, one can find a small lake and various water features surrounded by lush green trees and well maintained bushes, within the Bangsar South area. The same, can be found in other parts of KL where development had made its presence felt

Source: Pexels

Back in Sentul, one can today find modern and tastefully designed condominiums where cows used to graze. However, tucked in one corner of Sentul, is one of the biggest, if not only, remaining green area, located within the Sentul Park[13]. This location, which today houses the KLPac[14], YTL Datacentre and others, is where the former KTM railways workshop, portions of the KTM railway quarters and other KTM buildings was located. Interestingly, much of this park consists of majestic and ancient trees towering over the various structures within the park. The same can be said of the still surviving public parks within KL, such as the Titiwangsa Lake Gardens[15] and the Lake Gardens[16]. This of course, is unlike their younger and green but not-so-tall counterparts in the parks within KLCC, Bangsar South and elsewhere who are instead, towered over by various man-made structures.

As I complete this last paragraph and gaze out of the window, I can still see some greenery, within Segambut. Beyond that though, all I can see was sky-high apartments and condominiums with pockets of greenery here and there. Further out, I can make out a part of the ever-changing but soaring skyline of Kuala Lumpur. Even further out, I can roughly see the green-clad hills and mountains that are part of the Titiwangsa range, in the outskirts of KL. As to how long these will remain green, I can’t help but wonder. On a distant yet not too far hill, I can see large orange spots, signs of soil being cleared for development. Closer to home, in Segambut, I saw a condominium coming up, which most likely will eventually join others that already tower over the area surrounding the Jalan Duta toll plaza. For now though, I will allow myself to simply enjoy gazing at the greenery from the many tall trees that are still up and about and comtemplate if perhaps one day I can contribute towards the greenery by planting a tree or two. 

P.S.: Featured image sourced from Pexels.