Penang Hills Watch: Tracking hill clearing activity in Penang – Ushahidi
By Angela Oduor Lungati,
Mar 28, 2017
Penang Hills Watch (PHW) is an initiative by the Penang Forum (PF), a coalition of NGOs and individuals, to keep tabs on activities affecting Penang’s hills. Penang is a highly urbanized and densely populated state in the northern region of Malaysia. Years of human activity has reduced its forests to just 7.4 % of its land area, located mainly in the hills. These forested hills function as water catchments to provide water supply, prevent soil erosion and landslides, and are the green lungs for nature appreciation and outdoor recreation. However, they are also fragile and easily degraded when disrupted by human activities. Increasingly, housing development and hill farming activities have been expanding into the hilly land, jeopardizing whatever little natural habitat that remains.
Having received reports from the public about hill clearing activities on an occasional basis, Penang Forum saw the need to collate and map such information to provide a comprehensive picture of the extent of hill clearing in Penang and gauge its impact. The objective of this PHW initiative is to involve the public in reporting cases of hill clearing, enhancing public awareness and foster cooperation between civil society and the state government in addressing this issue. Hikers, NGOs, Resident’s Associations and the press would be the sources of our information on hill clearing activities.
The citizen’s reports thus recorded are shared with the relevant state government agencies, which PHW would schedule to meet on a regular basis to identify appropriate actions and discuss mitigation efforts on a case by case basis. Rexy said that the response from the state has been good. Several of the cases tracked on the PHW deployment have been identified as illegal clearing activities and the state government is proactively taking action against the responsible parties and to mitigate the damage.