Review planned cable car project for Penang Hill, green group tells state govt after Unesco selection

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A view of George Town from the highest point on Penang Hill. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
A view of George Town from the highest point on Penang Hill. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Sept 21 — Environment group, Penang Hills Watch (PHW) is calling on the Penang government to review its proposed cable car project for Penang Hill, especially after its designation as a Unesco biosphere reserve.

The group suggested the state government use its resources to adapt the hill resort’s natural attributes and facilities for visitors while taking into account the new social regulations in the Covid-19 pandemic era.

It said the state should promote outdoor and cultural activities to make the best of the natural and historical attributes of Penang Hill without compromising its fragile ecology.

While it welcome the establishment of a unit to manage the Penang Hill Biosphere Reserve (PHBR) within the new Unesco’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme, PHW hoped the state will include environmental non-governmental organisations in the planning and management of to safeguard the natural and managed ecosystems.

“PHW has been actively engaging with relevant authorities in tackling issues of hill land clearing and degradation and looks forward to further constructive relationship with the new management unit for PHBR,” it said in a statement today.

It said the management unit will also be empowered to garner cooperation and resources from relevant government agencies to ensure effective management of PHBR.

PHW said the priority the PHBR is to protect its environment, forests and the water catchment areas under its area.

“Habitat destruction is a serious threat to the hills of Penang, with quarrying, uncontrolled and unsustainable agriculture, residential development, and mega transportation projects being various manifestations of this threat,” the group warned.

PHW also said the state government still has time to rethink its development strategy for Penang Hill as listed under its 2020 draft Special Area Plan (SAP).

“The authorities will need to be more sensitive to the risks of over-tourism or mass tourism and any form of infrastructure development on the hill which may not be in harmony with the objective of the listing,” the green group said.

It hoped PHBR would not end up like the country’s first MAB biosphere reserve site, Tasik Chini in Pahang that has since become polluted following the extensive conversion of the surrounding forest land for agriculture and mining.

PHW said the listing of PHBR is a step forward towards the protection and active management of Penang Hill and its ecosystems so the state should look at this instead of introducing more projects that could destroy the ecosystem.

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