Central Friday January 25, 2008
By Hilary Chiew
In the last 25 years, Chong Tuck Meng, has not stepped into the natural, outdoor world. Prevented from doing so owing to his disabled state of being, he recently gets a rare chance of being close to nature at the Kepong Botanical Garden.
“Forest is nothing new to me as I came from Bentong, Pahang which were pretty much a forested area during my younger days. So, it is really heartening to find this beautiful jungle in the heart of the city made accessible for people like me,” said the 45-year-old who heads the Perwira K-9 Malaysia, an organisation for people who are paralysed from the neck down like him.
(K-9 refers to the ward in Hospital KL for patients with spinal cord injuries.)
The 80ha garden located next to the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (Frim) has incorporated a 400m wheelchair-friendly pathway to cater to the needs of the disabled community.
Chong: Appreciates the chance to enjoy the jungle atmosphere again.
Refreshing: The wheelchair-bound visitors being taken around the trail at the Kepong Botanical Garden after the launching ceremony.
Called the Razak Walk, named after the current director-general Datuk Dr Abdul Razak Mohd Ali, the cemented trail was launched recently with little fanfare participated by senior staff of the institute and representatives from several organisations of the disabled community.
Razak said the trail was designed with the disabled in mind as there are not many public parks available for the disabled members of society. And it could very well be the first nature trail designed for the disabled people in the country.
Close encounter: Wheelchair-bound Francis Siva (left) and S. Johnson admiring a ginger plant along the Razak Walk.
The plot of planted forest is dedicated to under-storey plants like palms, orchids, gingers, pitcher plants and mosses. About 150 species of under-storey plants found in the peninsula as well as from Borneo had been planted along the 400m trail.
Under-storey vegetation thrives on the forest floor with canopy-filtered sunlight and plays a crucial role in maintaining the balance in the natural forest ecosystem.
“It is important for them to know the forests and appreciate it. Natural forests are too challenging for them so we’ve to provide this facility. Otherwise, they will just go to shopping malls.
“There are, however, room for improvement with the trail. We are getting feedbacks from the community after this launch and improve on the design of the trail which included some slopes and installing railing where it is needed,” he said, adding that the next disabled-friendly facility will be the 1.5km trail around the lake area.
Anthony Thanasayan, a vocal advocate of disabled rights thinks the trail was a noble effort on the part of FRIM and hopes that more of such facilities will be made available for the disabled community.
Cool trail: The Razak Walk is a 400m-long nature trail within the 80ha Kepong Botanical Garden.
“It maybe a small step for FRIM but it is a big step for us. The trail provided a fantastic opportunity for us to be acquainted with nature despite some of the shortcomings.
“We are offering ourselves to be in a committee to manage the trail so that we can share our knowledge on how to make the trail and the garden a truly disabled-friendly place,” he said.
Thanasayan said the steep parts of the trail could be a hindrance to the wheelchair-bound public and suggested an alternative route to avoid the dangerous slopes.
Rare outing: Anthony Thanasayan soaking in the sights, sounds and smells of the jungle.
The garden that is open to the public daily from 7am to 7pm is a popular haunt for joggers. However, some unscrupulous visitors had been stealing the rare plants in the garden.