Eco warriors ready to ‘Save Penang Hill’ – The Star

Eco warriors ready to ‘Save Penang Hill’ – The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Civil society groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are ready to re-launch the “Save Penang Hill” campaign if the state goes ahead with the plan to build a cable car up there.

Friends of Penang Hill spokesperson Meenakshi Raman said the group had “never supported the proposal and never will”.

“We are very worried about the carrying capacity of the hilltop, ” she said yesterday.

Meenakshi said the hill was an environmentally sensitive area and a cable car would mean that loads of people could be brought up there.

“This might undermine the integrity of the hill. Penang Hill is an important water catchment area. It is no ordinary hill, ” she said.

On Friday, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng announced that RM100mil would be allocated for a cable car project on Penang Hill as part of the country’s tourism development budget.

Malaysian Nature Society Penang adviser D. Kanda Kumar said the project was scrapped after strong public protest over 20 years ago.

He said with more people reaching the hill top per day, “where is all the rubbish going to go? What about the water supply?”

“You can’t simply build more infrastructure on the hill. How are the existing public toilets going to withstand the wear and tear?”

Penang Hill Watch co-founder and coordinator Rexy Prakash Chacko felt that the hill was already operating beyond its capacity as a tourist attraction.

He said in June, a tender was called for a consultant to do a pre-feasibility study on the cable car proposal, which was expected to take six months to complete.

“This is not even a full technical study. How can there be a budget allocation for something which has not been studied thoroughly and not yet approved?” Rexy asked.

Penang Forum member Dr Liew Kon Wui said the Special Area Plan (SAP) for Penang Hill had been clear about the hilltop’s carrying capacity.

“Even after full development, the maximum carrying capacity allowed is 4,800.

“In the Finance Minister’s speech, he indicated that the present railway will soon exceed its capacity of two million passengers a year. That will be an average of 5,000 per day, ” he added.

The cable car plan was brought up in 1990 and was so strongly opposed by civil groups that the Barisan Nasional state government scrapped it.

In February 2017, when the current state government raised the idea again, civil society declared they would launch the “Save Penang Hill 2.0” campaign if the state government went ahead with it.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, in a press conference yesterday, said despite the allocation, studies must be done before the deciding if it could be built.

“This idea is not new. When Penang Hill Corporation applied for the project, it was around RM130mil.

“At the moment, the tender process for a pre-feasibility study is going on. Penang Hill Corporation will appoint a local consultant to do it, ” he said.