Press Statement: BUKIT NANAS HERITAGE ZONE AND FOREST RESERVE: THE SHRINKING OF THE KUALA LUMPUR’S REMAINING GREEN LUNG

 

Press Statement: 4 Paril 2019

BUKIT NANAS HERITAGE ZONE AND FOREST RESERVE:
THE SHRINKING OF THE KUALA LUMPUR’S REMAINING GREEN LUNG

C4 Center refers to the recent statement made by the Federal Territories (FT) Minister, Khalid Abdul
Samad, to buy back a piece of land in the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve (BNFR).

The Star reported on March 2019 that the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) will buy back a 0.27ha piece
of land which belonged to a private owner who had applied to develop it.

Asked how much it would cost DBKL to buy the land, Khalid said, “Within the RM100mil range. We
have to be fair to the landowner and go by the market value of the land as it is located right smack at the
foot of Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve,” he said.

C4 Center is extremely concerned with the recent developments surrounding the DBKL land acquisitions
and/or sales to private developers, where a lack of clarity and opaque explanations from the current FT
Minister, have left the current status of the land deals appearing suspicious.
This had led our investigation team to research further on this matter and indeed BNFR has been
mysteriously reduced from 9.37ha to 8.39ha!

Overview

BNFR formerly known as the Welds Hill Forest Reserve, was gazetted in 1900 and is the oldest forest
reserve in the country. It is the only remaining green lung in the country’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur.
Over time, the area of BNFR has reduced from 17.5ha to 9.37ha due to several hectares being taken up
for building the Kuala Lumpur Tower and other purposes.

Previously, The Edge reported that a Shenzhen-based property developer, China Vanke Co Ltd (Vanke)
has won the tender for a 7.4 acre tract in Jalan Raja Chulan, close to the BNFR. Vanke, through a locally
incorporated company, Malola Garden City Sdn Bhd (Malola), paid only RM500 million or RM1,600 psf
for the 16 plots of prime tract, which is well lower than deals executed for nearby parcels — at between
RM2,000 and RM2,400 psf.

Filings with the Companies Commission of Malaysia show that Malola was incorporated on March 2017.
Its nature of business is described as stock, share and bond broking. It is wholly owned by a foreign
company called Jumbo City Limited. The directors of the company are Malaysian Tan Vin Shyan and
three foreign nationals, Zhou Chaobin, Lang Cong and Haiwu Wang.

The initial proposed development on the former Serani Row plot and the surrounding area at Jalan Raja
Chulan, close to the BNFR, comprises two 80-storey towers, two 66-storey towers, two 60-storey towers
as well as a 10-storey parking facility and a 3-storey commercial podium. The estimated Gross
Development Value (GDV) of this project is between RM1.5 billion and RM2.5 billion, depending on the
timing of the launch, plot ratio, etc.

This high density mixed development project had in the past became controversial due to the following
reasons:-

(a) the National Heritage Department (JWN) and the public were concerned that the project would
have a major impact on the surrounding environment as the project site is just next to the BNFR.
BNFR serves as a biodiversity centre, research, education, recreation, tourism, heritage as well as
a good habitat for a diversity of plants and mammals;

(b) JWN and the public claimed that this project would lead to the demolition of several colonial
homes on the former Serani Row plot. These pre-war houses were built in 1931 and were
previously owned by members of the Eurasian community. Although the houses were not a gazette
heritage building, it nonetheless has some historical value; and

(c) The National Security Council (JKN) and the Public Works Institute (Ikram) had their concerns
since the prime tract is located near to a slope.

Damning Revelations

A search on the OSC Portal indicates that Malola had indeed sought planning permission from Kuala
Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) in July 2017 and has received DBKL’s conditional approval in August 2017.
The conditional approval granted by DBKL includes the 16 plots (ie. Lot 212 – 217, Lot 223 – 227, Lot
417 – 420 and PT 1074) as well as “Sebahagian tanah kerajaan, Seksyen 57, Jalan Raja Chulan,
Kuala Lumpur”.

A recent search on the BNFR at the Federal Territories Director of Lands and Mines Office (PTGWP)
revealed that indeed there are two cancellations for part of the public reserve, the first being 1.772 acres
(ie. 0.717 ha) relating to a Lot 234 and the second being 0.655 acres (ie. 0.265ha) relating to a Lot 240.
Hence, BNFR has been mysteriously reduced by 2.427 acres (ie. 0.982 ha).

Therefore, the 0.265ha piece of land that the FT Minister wants to buy back from the private owner for
RM100 million could be where the Galeri Interaktif NRE is currently located.

Questions for FT Minister

In the light of better accountability and transparency, we hope that the current FT Minister responds to the
following queries:-

(i) if indeed the previous government had cancelled part of the public reserve ie. “pembatalan
sebahagian rizab tanah bagi maksud awam”, how was this possible without public consultation
and the involvement of relevant authorities such as Forest Department and JWN;

(ii) if indeed the previous government had transferred part of the government land ie. “sebahagian
tanah kerajaan, Sekysen 57” to a foreign developer via its locally incorporated company, was
the transaction done through direct negotiations or through open tender;

(iii) in relation to (ii), was the transaction made at arm’s length since Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui
Lun had previously criticised DBKL for selling parcels of land cheaply, through direct
negotiations, instead of through open tender, thereby losing billions of ringgits in the process;

(iv) if the transaction was not made at arm’s length, was there any internal investigation carried out
on this matter since this highly suspicious transaction took place during the tenure of the former
FT Minister, Tengku Adnan. Tengku Adnan has been charged with two counts of receiving
RM3 million from property developers;

(v) if DBKL had indeed sold part of the government land and now plans to buy back the land from
the developer and the costs is expected to be more than RM100 million, was there any Costbenefit
analysis done; and

(vi) On January 2019, the Edgeprop reported that Vanke is planning to launch its first mixed
development in Malaysia this year with an estimated GDV of RM5 billion. Hence, C4 would
like to enquire if there was any study or assessment conducted to address the following
matters:-

(a) detrimental impact on BNFR since the project site is just next to it;
(b) environmental impact since the project is located near to a slope;
(c) possible effects of this project on the transportation and traffic system; and
(d) negative impact of the presence of foreign developer on the local housing industry.

C4 is extremely concern at the high level of encroachment of the BNFR. Thus, C4 reasserts our call for
greater scrutiny over sale of government land, and demand the right to know, and the right to greater
information over the dealings of government land.

Released by:
Cynthia Gabriel (Ms.)
Executive Director, C4 Center