Isnin, 22 Disember 2008

Serendah International Orchid Park left neglected

Cool sight: A pond at the orchid park

Not cared for: The overgrown orchid plants.

A waste: Unused flower pots left stacked at the farm.

Before, The Orchid Farm was a colourful sight when it first took shape

THE Serendah International Orchid Park, perched 300m above the sea level at the fringe of the Titiwangsa Range in Selangor, was once a popular tourist destination. But for the last three years, the place has become desolate, destitute and deserted.
The Selangor state government has two viable options €” to regenerate and then provide proper maintenance for the 160ha park or put it up for sale.
If the state chooses to regenerate and keep the place, it would obviously be costly.
The park was acclaimed by its developer and hailed by the authorities as the first of its kind in the country, when work first started on it in the middle of 2001.
Before: The Orchid Farm was a colourful sight when it first took shape
It was developed as part of a privatisation project between the Selangor Agricultural Develop­ment Corporation (PKPS) and a private developer which had been tasked with developing and managing the place.
During its early heyday, orchids were seen blooming in a colourful sea of purple, pink, yellow and white, among some of the many striking colours.
The developer was also quoted as saying at that time that there would be over 500,000 orchids from 100 hybrids and species in the first phase of development that covers 48ha of the hillslope.
Travel websites, magazines and the media had also generously promoted the park as an orchid paradise.
Expectations for the park were high, and there was also a proposal to set up a research and development centre within it for the purpose of developing new hybrids and different ways of growing the plants.
There were plans for overnight accommodation, involving the construction of chalets and apartments and the provision of camping grounds.
Not cared for: The overgrown orchid plants.
But about four years down the road, all the ambitious plans and projected development efforts for the park turned into an illusion and it has since been left neglected and almost abandoned.
The project was a sheer waste of public funds and hence, the six-month-old Pakatan Rakyat state government decided to do something about the matter.
Two months ago, the state government sent workers to the place to try and salvage it.
On arriving at the foothill of the park, the StarMetro team found a barrier blocked the access of vehicles up the hill.
The team had no choice but to take a labou­rious one-hour hike up the very steep slope that seemed like a never-ending journey.
A waste: Unused flower pots left stacked at the farm.
The hot afternoon weather certainly took a toll on even a fit person.
The team had expected to have a refreshing sight of a sea of orchids on reaching the place but was instead shocked to find the place looking like a forsaken ghost-town with an abject environment.
The place was devoid of any visitor. The terrace was still intact with its black netting all over.
There were flower pots lying all over the place and there were only a few flowers blooming in about 100 pots of orchids.
Some orchid stalks on the old trees were dried up and were beyondsaving. The workers had to leave them to die while others were thrown away.
The place looked nothing like the glorious orchid park that people have read about in articles and seen in photos when it was first publicised.
The seven workers there said that they did their part by watering the orchids daily and hoping that it would grow and beautify the park once again.
In response to when the park would be ready for visitors, a worker said that the park could be opened by January if these orchids are taken care of, given enough water and manure.
They said that when they first came on board two months back, the place was entirely covered with grass and shrubs of two metres in height.
Cool sight: A pond at the orchid park
It took them a month to clear the overgrown bushes, cut down the trees and make the park looked presentable.
“In the three years the park was abandoned, a lot of orchids had unfortunately died. During that period of time, visitors would also take advantage to steal the orchids,” one worker said.
According to the workers, they have even spotted wild boars and bears roaming about the area at night, due no doubt to its proximity to one of the oldest rain forests in the world.
However, the administration office is currently empty with unused chairs and tables, and so was the cafeteria but the benches and dining tables were still in fine condition.
The observation tower is still around where scapes and vistas of green down the slopes can be viewed from the top.
It is certainly a shame for such a park developed on a vast area and at highcost to be left in such a dire state.
When contacted, Selangor state agriculture, natural resources and entrepreneur development chairman Yaakob Sapari said that he had two proposals for the state executive council to decide on €” to regenerate and maintain the park or to offer it for sale.
“At present, we are carrying out minimum maintenance at the place. It was not a properly done project and we have engaged a lawyer to study the terms of the privatisation agreement, as this was a joint venture during the previous government’s administration,” he said.
“This is important before we can contemplate further action to take,” Yaakob said.
If the park is to be sold, he said it would be done at current market value.
Meanwhile, state local government, research and studies committee chairman Ronnie Liu thinks it is pointless to have an orchid park atop a hill in Serendah.
He said the distance would deter people from visiting it.
“Serendah has never been known for orchids. Moreover, we don’t need such a big land to grow orchids merely for people to come, pay for tickets and see,” he said.
“If the land is used for breeding and selling of orchids, then perhaps it is still okay.
“So I feel that the Serendah park should be sold, or the state will have to fork out extra cost to revive it,” Liu said.
He said such an orchid park was more appropriate in Shah Alam since the state’s capital city is also called Kota Anggerik (orchid city).
“But I believe that the state government should not be doing this project alone. The Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) should get corporate bodies to come on board to sponsor the plants,” he said.
“We can then name these orchids after the sponsors, and this itself would be an attraction to them, locals, tourists and even visiting delegates from overseas,” Liu said.
“Shah Alam is an ideal place where people would not mind paying to view the orchids,” he said.
SAS: What we suppose to react, whereas the council members, do they sensitive enough to make certain decision, or just sleeping at a corner, their allocated budget were all used up...

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