Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia will not be a successful and developed nation if it fails to balance physical development with the preservation of the environment.
The prime minister said preserving nature and the environment for today's generation, as well as for future generations, was both a personal and collective responsibility.
“We have seen the effects of irregular development that only emphasise on the profit factor alone.
“We need to realise that our efforts to become a developed nation will not be achieved or recognised if what we can show is only skyscrapers, but our rivers are polluted, only barren land is left out of our wilderness, and the air we breathe is badly polluted,” he said at the Earth Day celebration in Taman Tugu today.
Mahathir was accompanied by his wife Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali.
Also present were Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin, Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad, and Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar.
Commenting on Earth Day, celebrated internationally on April 22 every year, Mahathir said awareness on environmental conservation should be applied and shared by everyone from all walks of life.
He said the Earth Day celebration at Taman Tugu, a 26.7ha jungle garden located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, demonstrated the government’s commitment towards ensuring the right balance between physical development and environmental preservation.
“The Taman Tugu garden is a manifestation of our commitment in ensuring that the physical development is in harmony with the preservation of the environment."
"It is understood that about 4,000 Malaysian native rain forest trees have been planted around this Taman Tugu."
“This is an addition to the existing original 1,000 trees here that have been well maintained, so the selection of Taman Tugu as the venue for the Earth Day celebration this year is quite meaningful and symbolic,” he said.
The Taman Tugu project was also aimed at producing more nature lovers through public education programmes conducted especially on weekends, he said.
“I was informed that since it was opened to the public in August 2018, Taman Tugu has attracted some 30,000 visitors from within and outside the country.
“If every visitor coming to Taman Tugu can bring back the same message to their family members and friends about the importance of preserving the environment and protecting green areas, I believe with the increase in the awareness level, it will eventually become something spontaneous and no longer necessary to hold any campaigns and reminders,” he added.
Among the programmes held in conjunction with the Earth Day celebration today were guided jungle trekking, cycling workshops, zumba and a performance by singer Zainal Abidin.
Taman Tugu is a Khazanah Nasional Berhad corporate social responsibility initiative with the support of several ministries and agencies, as well as private companies and NGOs.
Thus far, about 16.18ha of the total 26.7ha, including 4km of jungle trails, are open to the public for free from 7am to 6.30pm daily.
For the remaining 10.52ha, there will be camping sites, hall, surau and a Hindu temple, which will be developed in stages starting this year until early next year.
The Taman Tugu will be handed over to the National Heritage Trust to be managed and protected as a public green area.