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Rimba Ilmu - Our Heritage?

In recent news, the Singapore Botanic Gardens has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The write-up on UNESCO's website reads thus (emphasis mine):

Situated at the heart of the city of Singapore, the site demonstrates the evolution of a British tropical colonial botanic garden that has become a modern world-class scientific institution used for both conservation and education. The cultural landscape includes a rich variety of historic features, plantings and buildings that demonstrate the development of the garden since its creation in 1859. It has been an important centre for science, research and plant conservation, notably in connection with the cultivation of rubber plantations, in Southeast Asia since 1875.

Like Singapore's Botanic Gardens, UM's very own Rimba Ilmu is also used for both conservation and education, and is perhaps the only botanical garden in Malaysia that has a similar heritage:

1. It is located in close proximity to the city

2. It has a "wild" forest core (at least 60-70% of Rimba Ilmu is closed to public access)

3. It has a strong conservation function (the Herbarium, containing over 70,000 accessions, is perhaps the second most extensive in the country, after FRIM's)

4. It plays an important role in environmental education (visiting school/student groups come all the time)

5. It was a former rubber plantation

Unlike the SBG, however, Rimba Ilmu is a mere 41 years old, which is young by botanical garden standards.

But more worrying is this: unlike SBG, there is no convincing plan/long-term roadmap for Rimba Ilmu. SBG is over 150 years old; it remains a question whether Rimba Ilmu will live to see 100. Urbanisation and development pressure within the Klang Valley puts Rimba Ilmu's 60 hectares at risk.

Do remember Rimba Ilmu as a special UM heritage even as we celebrate our Independence this weekend. Selamat Hari Merdeka, all!

Central wetlands in Rimba Ilmu Botanic Garden.

All photographs by Benjamin Ong

#benjaminong #rimbailmu #articles

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