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Malaysians Want To Use Playgrounds, Parks and Recreational Areas, But Who Takes Care Of Them? 

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Lim Chian Hui would bring her two children to the local park at Taman Impian Emas, Skudai, Johor Bahru. It was one of the highlights of their week for the family to bond and give her children a chance to break a sweat.

Recreational parks, however, were off-limits during the cycles of lockdowns, and when it was reopened, Chian Hui was keen to visit them. Much to her chagrin, however, the park had changed its stripes.

We were shocked to find the playground equipment covered with algae. The drains were also not properly cleaned and there were a lot of mosquitoes. – Lim Chian Hui, resident at Taman Impian Emas[1]

Source: The Star

Many other families that have flocked the playgrounds once restrictions ended were also left disappointed. Another parent, Tan Sue Mien, brought her children to the neighbourhood playground at Taman Desa Tebrau and was left appalled by the dilapidated condition.

The equipment has been vandalised. One of the plastic slides had a huge hole. It looked like someone had set fire to it. Tan Sue Mien, resident at Taman Desa Tebrau[1]

It is no surprise that the sight of a child using the playground is becoming increasingly rare as parents are willing to pay for indoor playground facilities. Another red flag for parents was local neighbourhood playgrounds violating safety measures.

I think our playgrounds are generally not safe, as I have seen broken playground equipment in many places. In one playground, I actually saw a swing snap while a boy was using it. Luckily, he was not moving too fast or he could have been severely injured. – Shakila Naseer, a mother from Damansara[2]

As many would have observed, our public parks and recreational amenities have seen better days.

The Current State Of Play

A local organisation made up of individuals who want playgrounds to be a better place banded together in 2013 to form the Playground Safety Association of Malaysia (PSAM). Currently, PSAM has over 50 certified playground inspectors that would assess playgrounds nationwide in its hazard and risks and provide suggestions to improve the safety of the amenities.

This is a long-standing problem in Malaysia because the know-how on playground maintenance and safety is still rather new here. But it’s high time to start training contractors to build safer playgrounds with proper layouts. – Noriah Mat, PSAM Secretary-General[3]


Based on their assessment, 75.6% of public playgrounds are in a bad state, with half of the facilities in need of repair on a selected 40 parks[3]. Over 50% of playground equipment and park furniture were also rusty in 2018[3].

Between 2015 and 2016, local authorities received 11,231 complaints regarding playgrounds[3].

The PSAM’s surveys did note that playgrounds in Malaysia do follow stringent international safety standards.

Playgrounds in Malaysia are generally MS 966:2001-compliant and based on the 1991 International Standard and American Society for Testing and Materials standards. – Noriah Mat, PSAM Secretary-General[3]

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean playgrounds are 100% safe, as there is always a chance of human errors during the construction process. Some older playgrounds have also utilised cement to cover the playground rather than the rubberised surface violating the MSS 966:2001 standard, a Malaysian standard that specifies the requirements of playground equipment and design.

Indeed, cases of children suffering from playground-related injuries are not uncommon, unfortunately. Between 2014 and 2016, 530 children were discharged after suffering from falls involving playground equipment[3].

Fatal Accidents Waiting To Happen

Worse still is that fatalities have occurred in many playgrounds, which is shocking news given that such places are supposed to be safe for children and families.

In 2011, Muhammad Naquiddin Mohd Marzuki, 11, was electrocuted at a playground in Shah Alam after accidentally falling and touching an exposed high-voltage wire on a lamppost at a playground.

8-year-old Ahmad Ilham Fikri Ahmad Zaki died after a falling goalpost crushed him on a field in Batu Pahat in 2014.

These fatal accidents in the playground may not be common. But they are a clear case for improving our current standards and enforcing them more strictly.

Most playgrounds do not comply with safety and maintenance standards. A survey of playgrounds nationwide should be carried out to ascertain how safe they are. – Noriah Mat, PSAM Secretary-General[3]

Noriah also commented that playgrounds in Malaysia have not changed for the past 20 years in their design, construction, safety and most importantly in their maintenance.

Comparing this to our close neighbour, Singapore, playgrounds are an integral part of the public housing in the country and have only evolved since the 1970s. Today, Singapore has one of the highest densities of well-maintained playgrounds in the world[4].

The playgrounds in Singapore have transformed from only having basic amenities to embedding thematic design and ensuring that their equipment strictly adheres to international standards due to the government’s initiative of pumping money into the local commodity.

A Case Of Bad Maintenance

A great deal of money and time has been poured into building and landscaping parks.  Most neighbourhoods these days have jogging tracks and parks catered to a new breed of house owners.

Environment and lifestyle now play a big part in their decision-making process.  Gone are the days when homeowners only wanted a roof over their heads. – Chan Ai Cheng, president of the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents president[5]

However, once the housing area is complete or a public space is launched, the role of maintaining them falls on the shoulders of local councils with the help of housing developers.

Developers often bundle playgrounds with housing projects, but once the houses are occupied they don’t care. – Tiew Hai San, the Undersecretary for the FT Ministry’s Strategic Development Division[2]

Even so, it is no easy feat to ensure all public spaces are in tip-top shape. For example, the Johor Bahru City Council (MBJB) shared that there are 399 public playgrounds under its jurisdiction, with a total spending of RM 5.5 million on annual maintenance [1].

Source: The Star

The Iskandar Puteri City Council (MBIP) Landscape Department in Johor Bahru stated that they are looking over almost 1,494 playgrounds with an allocation of  RM 7.2 million for maintenance work in 2021[1].

With a large number of playgrounds to be kept, it is no surprise that their drains have turned into mosquito breeding grounds.

I am worried about dengue fever as my children get bitten by mosquitoes when they go to the park. – T. Selvakumar, a resident of Tebrau[1]

Most public playgrounds in Malaysia use synthetic surfaces that over time no longer meet the standard. 64% of surface flooring at public playgrounds is either uneven, damaged, rotten, fungus-infested, worn out or unfastened from concrete floors[2].

Broken swings and slides are another common fixture in playgrounds and parks located in some housing areas.

In addition, the broken swing iron also endangers children’s safety when it is used to play, especially in the evening. Only seesaw boards can be used by children in this area but the iron is also rusty and falling apart. Leyveshvarman Bohernagarajan, resident at Pangsapuri Pelangi, Gat Lebuh Macallum, Penang[6]

Residents such as Leyveshvarman Bohernagarajan said multiple complaints were lodged to local authorities on broken amenities with no action taken for the past years. An issue faced by communities nationwide.

The park is dark at night because the existing lights have been broken for a long time and have not been replaced.  – Amirullah Dusin, resident at  Kepayan Ridge, Kota Kinabalu [6] 

The most worrying thing is that there are some abandoned electric cables in the grass. We don’t know if this cable is still working or not. Kasmah Abdul, resident at  Kepayan Ridge, Kota Kinabalu[6]

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things 

The local council’s neglect of playgrounds is one reason behind public spaces falling apart. Even so, Raflis Fadzil, a resident at Flat Taman Seri Gemilang, Alor Setar, admitted that there are invisible hands that lead to parks and playground equipment being broken. 

I have lived here since 2008. Most of the broken equipment is due to teenagers using them. The attitude when using the facilities provided causes them to be damaged. For example, some stand while playing and some deliberately pull the swing until it breaks. Raflis Fadzil, a resident at Flat Taman Seri Gemilang, Alor Setar[6] 

Some of these infrastructures have been severely burnt, and graffiti stains the surface. Admittedly, the local council believed that the park and playground equipment would have had a longer lifespan if they were treated better.

Most of our facilities are broken due to vandalism, not wear and tear. – Iskandar Puteri City Council (MBIP) Landscape Department spokesperson[1]

Not just that, some residents have turned park areas into dumpsites, leaving a foul stench wafting around.

I think the local council should carry out spot checks as some parks have become a dumping ground for rubbish during the pandemic.  – T. Selvakumar, a resident of Tebrau[1]

In spite of these issues, some people still frequent these vandalised playgrounds. To them, the playground and community parks still remain spaces that are most accessible for leisure, especially for rural dwellers.

Mohd Lazi Saperi, a resident of Kampung Serom, Tangkak, frequented the playground in Kampung Pulau Penarik despite its shortcomings.

I rarely come here because I am busy with work but whenever I have free time, I will take my children to the children’s playground in Kampung Pulau Penarik because it is the only facility close to home.  Mohd Lazi Saperi, a resident of Kampung Serom, Tangkak[6]

This sentiment is echoed by Nasir Abdullah, another resident who would visit the playground with his children due to its proximity to his house.

There aren’t many similar facilities in this area. So, whether I like it or not, I have to bring them here especially after coming home from work because it’s the only playground near our house.  Nasir Abdullah, a resident of Kampung Serom, Tangkak[6]

As the country develops further, there is a growing need for more public spaces or recreational activities that could cater to all walks of life – and it is a matter of ensuring the facilities are well-kept.

Don’t Play-Play On Our Public Ground

Some, however, refused to sit still or wait for local council intervention whilst the park they cherish continues to rot away. The residents of Taman Impian Emas have taken matters into their own hands to keep the neighbourhood park clean and usable by the folks. Tan Buck Chew, who exercised daily at the park, was disappointed when it was filled with fallen leaves. He and a few others purchased a leaf blower to resolve this problem.

We spent about RM600 as there were a lot of leaves on the ground and nobody came to clear them. Tan Buck Chew, resident in Taman Impian Emas[1]

Another resident, Yap Jap Bui, started planting flowers at the park.

Since Covid-19 two years ago, I have been jobless so I decided to do some gardening to fill my time. I usually spend about two hours in the morning gardening and weeding. Yap Jap Bui, resident in Taman Impian Emas[1]

It is heartening to see residents banded together for a good cause in ensuring the public space is accessible to all. However, there is only so much they can do, especially changing the broken playground equipment would necessitate the involvement of local councils.  

A Shared Responsibility

The local council in Johor Bahru took this a step further by forming an alliance with residents’ associations and encouraging residents to be part of Rakan Taman (Friends of Parks), serving as eyes and ears of the local council in reporting issues in neighbourhoods.

Rakan Taman members can also report vandalism and crime at playgrounds as well as surrounding areas. – Datuk Mohd Noorazam Osman, Johor Bahru mayor[1]

Rakan Taman members can also report vandalism and crime at playgrounds as well as surrounding areas. – Datuk Mohd Noorazam Osman, Johor Bahru mayor[1]

In Kajang, the municipal council (MPKJ) implemented the “padang angkat” programme. After fixing and beautifying affected local parks or playgrounds, the municipality will hand over the area to resident associations to take care of.

The selected resident associations (RAs) will be the eyes and ears of the Council; they will watch out for vandals, including preventing their children from vandalising the playground facilities. Without a sense of belonging, the public will take things provided by the Council for granted instead of taking good care of the equipment. – Mohd Sayuthi Bakar, president of MPKj [7]

To the rest of us who have public playgrounds and parks nearby, let’s aim to be considerate when utilising the parks to ensure it would benefit others too.

Be a good samaritan and contact your local municipal council when there is broken equipment or repair is required. We have included some contact details of some municipal councils in Malaysia:

  • Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL): complaints can be lodged at ADU@KL
  • Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ): online complaints system;,  24 hours hotline: 03-79542020
  • Subang Jaya City Council (MBSJ): there are few channels where complaints can be lodged, find out here
  • Johor Bahru City Council (MBJB): WhatsApp 019-778 8212; hotline at 1300 88 0146
  • Iskandar Puteri City Council (MBIS):, WhatsApp 019-755 5404, hotlinet 1300 80 5000 or go to
  • Kuching City Council (DBKU); Talikhidmat: 082-555999, DBKU Hotline: 082-446644, Whatsapp DBKU: 016-8864466

Explore our sources:

  1. N.Benjamin. (2022). Playgrounds in poor state. The Star. Link 
  2. J.L.New. (2018). There Are Playground Inspectors In Malaysia? Here’s What They Look Like. Cili Sos. Link 
  3. M.K. Yuen. (2018). Don’t play around with safety. The Star. Link 
  4. M.Zaccheus. (2018).Singapore’s million-dollar playgrounds create a thriving new industry. Straits Times. Link 
  5. F.Zainal. (2022). People go for more recreational facilities when buying homes now. The Star. Link
  6. B.K.Zakaria.,M.N.Zainul.,F.F.Yaakob.,S.Latib., N.Abdul Rahman., N.I.Mohammad. (2017). Taman permainan usang, bahaya.Berita Harian. Link 
  7. I.Y.Oh. (2017). Public should take ownership of parks. The Star. Link

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