Online petition to Save Penang Hill tops 22,000 backers

Penang Hill Watch Co-Founder Rexy Prakash Chacko speaks during a press conference in Georget Town November 21, 2018. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang Hill Watch Co-Founder Rexy Prakash Chacko speaks during a press conference in Georget Town November 21, 2018. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

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GEORGE TOWN, Nov 21 — An online petition to protest against the state government’s proposed hotel projects on Penang Hill surpassed 22,000 signatures today, just six days after it was launched.

Penang Hills Watch (PHW) coordinator and Penang Forum member Rexy Prakash Chacko said this showed the petition is gaining momentum.

“This means a lot of people are against the proposed hotels on the hill. The state government should cancel it,” he said at a press conference organised by Penang Forum and Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam (PEKA) today. 

He reminded the state government that 28 years ago, civil society and the public held a successful campaign to save Penang Hill from a proposed massive development project.

“We are no less capable of repeating it today,” he said adding that PHW launched the online petition on November 15. 

“Penang Forum is not against sustainable and low-impact development of the hill’s infrastructure,” he said.

He said they fully supported the idea of refurbishing and repurposing some of the old government assets on Penang Hill for reuse, but stressed that the site is a recreational place and building new hotels there would mar the historic cultural landscape and turn Penang Hill into a warmer, over-developed and overcrowded resort.  

“Penang Hill had a population of 949 people in 2010 but with these extra hotels, it would mean an extra 500 to 600 overnight guests or about 60 per cent more people which would immensely strain the hill’s limited resources,” he said.

He reminded the state government that the hill suffered more than 100 landslides in the November 2017 storm.

“Penang Hill is environmentally sensitive; we are extremely worried that tragic incidents could happen during the construction of the proposed hotels,” he said.

He also expressed his concerns that the hotel project would be susceptible to the impact of extreme weather.

He claimed that the proposed hotel development is also in conflict with the application of the Unesco Man and Biosphere Reserve for Penang Hill.

“The planned hotels border the proposed reserve risking the long-term conservation and preservation of Penang Hill’s unique biodiversity,” he said.

On Monday, Penang Hill Corporation (PHC) issued a statement clarifying that the proposed 200-room hotel behind the Convalescent Bungalow was a “previous concept proposal” that will be reviewed thoroughly.

It also stated that the buildings on the Coolie Line along Strawberry Valley will be refurbished and repurposed instead of constructing new buildings along the slopes. 

PHC clarified that it will initiate proposal requests on both the development of Convalescent Bungalow and Coolie Line in the next few months.

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