Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Idiocy of unelected local councils

This is a peevy post about the idiocy that appears to have embedded itself into local councils in Malaysia. I am particularly annoyed by the abject absence of common sense in the landscaping departments of local councils.

There appears to be an inexorable trend on the part of local councils to remove trees from the suburbs. from here.

I actually had an opportunity to bring this up some time ago with a former President of the Petaling Jaya Municipal Council. His absolutely lame reason was that trees were a nuisance because trees had a habit of dropping branches during thunderstorms! This caused an inconvenience to the local councils which had the responsibility to clean up after the irresponsible trees.

I was too flabbergasted and, too polite, to add to the obvious; that trees also had the annoying habit of dropping leaves and twigs which, also had the annoying habit of clogging up drains. Clogged drains had the corollary annoying effect of creating unhelpful puddles in roads. And, puddles have the annoying habit of forcing hydrophobic motor vehicles (or, is it hydrophobic drivers) to swerve to avoid the puddles. And, swerving motor vehicles have the annoying habit of causing bottle-necks which, have the annoying habit of causing traffic jams. I really was too polite to state such obvious chain reactions. After all, he had recently been conferred his Datukship and, I really didn't want to be rude.

So, there you have it. Trees are bad for local councils.

Will some one explain to local councils that ratepayers pay assessments for a reason? Or, do local councils actually believe that assessments are "grants" from the ratepayers for discretionary use by local councils?

The fact that trees are Nature's grand verdant visages are completely beside the point. from here.

The fact that trees provide shade against the harsh Tropical glare of Phoebus is also beside the point.

The fact that the shade of trees provide an air cushion of cool air that cools the overall environment is irrelevant.

The fact that trees absorb water from rainfall and reduces water run-off that fills drains up is also not relevant. The list goes on...

But, palm trees, on the other hand, are all the rage. Why? Easy to pick the odd frond that drops off.

No shade, never mind.

Thus the Dubai-fication of Malaysian suburbs is an inexorable trend.

And, not just the suburbs. Putrajaya is an excellent example of Dubai-fication. Park your car across the road from the Ministry of Finance and walk across the extremely wide thoroughfare under the hot, enervating glare of the angry tropical sun for a high-powered meeting and see if you can survive...barely. from here.

Maybe that's why I so love watching P. Ramlee movies. Even in monochrome, the visage of lush trees along the roads in the Malaysia of the 1960s is just too irresistable to the eye. from here.

Is that the vision of a Malaysia that is lost to History?

But, why should it be so?

Why is it that down South, Singaporean roads are so boulevardy and Malaysian roads are so Dubai-y? Why?

Why are Malaysian local councils so idiotic and myopic on things as simple as landscaping in the tropics?

Could, perchance, the answer lie in the fact that local councils are not accountable any ratepayer?

Could it be that since local councillors are NOT popularly elected they don't give a shit about their lack of popularity?


walla said...

When asked why their roads are so well-lined by lush trees, those down south answered in surprise,

"but we learned all from your forest research institute."


The most dangerous thing here is silo mindsets. The people who make decisions on how to beautify our cities and towns sit in air-conditioned rooms. They don't feel the mid-day heat which corrodes guts and fries the brains of motorists and pedestrians. Their right and left hemispheres are not in sync. Their eyes see only the timer to four. They fail to see that a decision made in passing that is an agenda item in a committee meeting between the other agenda items of beautifying the grounds of their city hall office (again) and organizing another foodfest (again) after using money meant for social welfare to instead sponsor wives of politicians to faraway and cooler places is actually a decision on legacy because trees take time to grow and global warming will make people stupider by the day.

They run operations with budgets first shaved by headcounts that fit social objectives over and above municipal imperatives, then dwindled further by 'reverse sponsorships', what more aggravated by land offices delineating places for development that make no provision for landscaping and foliage allocation. That's three problems forming the root causes of why there are insufficient trees of the right type in all the places which generations today and the future will have to miss for very practical reasons. And then they will nonchalantly tell you the budget is too small to afford more labour to prune and upkeep more luxuriantly foliaged trees in this country where you can stick a seed and it will grow by the grace of the Almighty.

On hot days, it's some 32 degrees celsius. If you wear Clarks or Bally, the soles will melt before you reach the nearest shade to present the next national economic strategic thrust. And by the way, why only that type of thrust?

Think of the kids out from school, lugging heavy satchels, walking to the nearest bus stop where the seats are tubular iron designed by the terminator machines of skynet inc.

While you're trying to imagine that baleful scene, invest in some daia detergent powder. You will need it to wash off the slush that was your one o-five mcdonald ice cream cone that has just melted in the heat courtesy of the nearest local council.

Aren't we proud that we're in the company of zimbabwe?

Since you've already bought the detergent powder, why not a magnifying glass as well? You will need it to inspect every money note of the second stimulus package to see if the name of a political party is inscribed on it to justify why the package will only be given to contractors who are members of that party. You mean the others who are not members of that party and are in need of equal measures of help are disqualified from it, even if they are not politically inclined? What if the work is needed to be done in their place, like say a bridge across a flood-prone river near a kampung, and there are no member contractors in that area? Even the lines of poverty and needs are drawn by the pen of politics. Again, silo thinking.

There's still some tar left in the bucket. Property developers. They just plant scrawny trees on pebbly fringes outside the housing estate. When they check their rolex to keep their next golf appointment, do they think whether what they have asked their people to do really works or not? Trees grow on soil, not pebbles. If those trees don't grow, house owners will dig them up. They can't find those lush saplings anywhere so they plant ferns, bushes, palms instead- which bring no shade which in turn makes each housing estate bigger heat traps. Next, architects. They design link houses that have heat-trapping roofs. Fifty two years of nation-building and this simple problem isn't solved. Ignored, in fact.

End result? Everyone switches on the airconditioner, increasing the power bill, bloating the national fuel bill, causing global warming. Until the power suppliers raise their rates. Then temperatures really rise.

The results of polls leading to the selection of governments in this country are therefore determined by whether useful trees are planted where they are needed in this country. That's a chain reaction to be aye-or-nay'ed in the next national debate.

Why is this country so stupid and (french-connected united kingdom)-up?

Answer: Because we don't plant shady trees with many leaves which by the process of photosynthesis absorb all the carbon dioxide that toxifies our brains, and releases all the oxygen that our brains need to nourish more non-silo minds.

Trees are also needed to prevent dengue. Mosquitoes go to places where there is high carbon dioxide concentration. Like Parliament House.

I am highly oxygentated this morning. Mercifully, not for long.


tip on mosquito trap
1. take empty 1.5L plastic bottle;
2. cut it three quarter up;
3. wrap lower part in black paper then fill it with brown sugar dissolved in water;
4. sprinkle in some yeast pellets (roti ibu @ one ringgit a tube);
5. reverse insert the top part with the neck into the lower partn but without touching the liquid;
6. place it near where mosquitoes disturb your train of thoughts while writing comments in blogs.
principle: the concoction emits carbon dioxide.

satD said...

bro de minimis

most of P.Ramlee movies were shot in Spore....

u know what i miss most...the Old Jalan Tun Razak from Kg Pandan Roundabout to Ampang d 80's

I used to jog in the middle where there used to be 10M divider between the roads n HUGE trees nice.....

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

I have long lamented this sad state of affairs but have chosen to be cynical about it after much trying and failing.

It would be so much cheaper, and much more effective to meet the objectives of greening and tree-planting, if suitable trees can be sourced from the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM). But that would defeat the purpose of some people sitting on the councils I suppose.

Exotic palms cost so much more and can open avenues for money-making for buyers and sellers.

What say you?


de minimis said...

bro walla

Keep being oxygenated. As long as you're not hyperventilating it's ok to get an oxygen-high ;)

bro satD

That may be true in many cases but etched in my mind are the many scenes where a car drives past the Klang council roundabout (as it was then), P. Ramlee cavorting in Tasik Perdana, scenes of the car pulling into a bungalow lot from a lush tree-laden road...the type of feeling you still get in Bukit Tunku (what's left of it).


I fully agree. FRIM has some really wonderful saplings of tropical trees that, upon maturity, are some of Nature's most glorious gifts...and, FRIM is happy to give them away. What are these bloody local councils waiting for? Maybe the sickening plastic palms that light up at night...puke!

hishamh said...

"What are these bloody local councils waiting for?"

Putting my economist's hat on I'd say the current system encourages the development of a rentier economy. Local councils are not beholden to their constituents, but to the state party apparatus. It's a feudal system - local party chiefs support the state party heads, in return for sinecures. Local council control in turn implies control over budgets and procurement, which can be doled out to party members also in return for their loyalty.

I'm not saying this is what actually happens, just that the economic incentives run that way ;)

Or, putting on my managerial/bureaucratic hat, local councils have a specfic budget to spend per year. Following the dictates of Parkinson's Law (expenditure expands to fill the money allocated for it), local councils have to spend their money as specified, otherwise their budget gets cut next year. Hence, free alternatives aren't wanted. QED

Or, putting on my local citizen's hat - they're incompetent. But I'm not sure I'd want to put it that strongly. In some areas, I think there has been considerable improvement in service awareness and quality over the years. It's just that we could do with more.

Jarod said...

an eye sore perhaps? Well, while the earth are planting more GReen, these bugger are chopping away all the GREEN!

mata said...

I recently drove over a water puddle that turned out to be a deep ditch, I am now a hydrophobic motorist.

chapchai said...

Talking about old movies, can someone tell me if there is a dvd of the original Pontianak film featuring Maria Menado?