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Use idle city land to grow food

Local residents could generate income from farming during this pandemic

Volunteers helping out at a farm in Bangsar - Photo: Benedict Lopez

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‘City Farm’ proposal lauded” by Nicolas Anil deserves more follow-up and implementation – not just to help the homeless, but as a small, practical step to achieve food security, especially during a crisis when food can no longer be imported.

This is an urgent matter that needs government cooperation and initiative to reduce our national food bill amounting to RM50bn annually.

This is a tragic waste in this tropical country. It reminds me of how we have longer hours of intense sunshine, but we do not use solar renewal energy on a large-scale to generate electricity for domestic electricity consumption. Likewise, we have land, rain and sunshine, but our agriculture sector is not performing at an optimal level.

It is a no-brainer: we have to refocus and use our land to grow more food, more so during the present pandemic.

First, land is available in the urban areas of the Klang Valley, where there is an urgent need to start the planting process. In the housing areas of Sections 17, 19, 20 and 21 and SS 1 and SS 2 areas alone, there are many vacant lots, full of weeds and creepers, presumably belonging to the government.  

These vacant lots were once used for the treatment of sewage discharge from the houses in the vicinity. Later, the separated individual sewage treatment plants were centralised and huge underground pipes channelled the sewage to a consolidated treatment centre. The local authority dismantled the old treatment cement tanks and filled them with laterite soil and levelled it.

Now and then, the federal ministry that took over these many vacant lots contracts grass cutters to trim the weeds and creepers. This is a tragic waste of potentially productive land that could be used for farming in the population centres. They now contribute nothing except weeds, like much of the idle land in the countryside as we drive out of the city.

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I emailed the federal ministry and called the ministry number listed in the vacant lot which advertised the contact number to warn against illegal occupation of the idle land. But the phone calls went unanswered.

I suggest that all these idle lots of expensive land in the urban centre be put to productive use by local residents who may want to grow food as a community project.

Or these lots could be leased to local residents who desperately need land to generate income during this pandemic. Priority could be given to those who live next to these vacant lots.

It costs the federal ministry nothing to open up such land, and it would save the ministry the expense of grass-cutting and other maintenance.

Our country is rich and blessed with bountiful riches from nature, yet we are poor in using our minds to maximise our resources.

Jordan Tan is an Aliran reader based in Kuala Lumpur

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