The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) calls on the Penang state government not to build a cable car connecting the Botanic Garden to the Penang Hill summit as it will have serious consequences for our environment and health.
The wellbeing of the people and the integrity of our environment should not be sacrificed at the altar of tourist dollars.
The provision of a cable car would lead to the construction of hotels, restaurants, theme parks, homes and roads to cater for the increased number of tourists and residents. Such development will have disastrous impacts on the fragile hill environment and endanger ecological balance.
Last November, before the federal allocation of RM100m for the cable car, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow announced the building of two hotels on the hill, one in a forest reserve area and, in January this year, he said Penang Hill could be turned into a premier holiday destination like Genting Highlands.
Such building activity is bound to lead to loss of forest cover and pollution of streams on the hill. It will result in the reduction of habitats and the consequent extinction of valuable plants, animals, birds and insects.
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Its impact will also cause soil erosion, degraded land slopes and increased landslides. The authorities have obviously not learned any lesson from the storm and the floods two years ago which caused massive landslides, uprooted many trees and cut off communications on the hill.
Currently, more than 5,000 people go up the hill daily and this is already exceeding the carrying capacity of the hill. Any further increase in the number of visitors and residents, as planned by the government will produce a substantial hike in the consumption of resources – food, water and energy – and production of waste.
Waste can cause great damage to the hill ecosystems. The hill does not have adequate sewage and waste disposal facilities to handle the waste generated by large numbers of tourists and residents.
The cable car station is to be located in the midst of the Youth Park and the Botanic Garden. Thousands of people – children, men, women and senior citizens – go to these two major open parks for exercise and to enjoy the peace and tranquillity in the green surroundings.
The effect of placing the station there will be to exacerbate the traffic congestion there and in neighbouring areas. Atmospheric and noise pollution will reach unacceptable limits and ruin the pleasure of those who patronise the park and the garden. Tourist buses and private cars will spew out dangerous exhaust gasses and produce irritable noise.
The construction of the cable car and the ensuing human activities on the hill and the station will produce large amounts of carbon dioxide and thereby increase our carbon footprint. This is in clear violation of Malaysia’s commitment under the UM sustainable development goals to reduce the carbon footprint.
The federal contribution of RM100m could be better used to provide affordable housing for the lower-income group and to improve public healthcare.
Our leaders and many other leaders in the world are wedded to the neoliberal model of economic development. They are like lemmings, blindly pursuing the path of economic growth, leading to the destruction of our environment and global warming that threaten the very survival of our planet.
Mohideen Abdu Kader is president of the Consumers Association of Penang.