Proposed cable cars won’t affect Penang Hill’s Unesco biosphere reserve status, says exco

A general view of the funicular railway station at the top of Penang Hill October 2, 2020. — Picture by KE Ooi
A general view of the funicular railway station at the top of Penang Hill October 2, 2020. — Picture by KE Ooi

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GEORGE TOWN, Sept 20 — The proposed cable cars for Penang Hill will not affect its recent designation as a Unesco biosphere reserve, said state exco Jagdeep Singh Deo.

He said the projects introduced by the government, including the cable car, were aimed at enhancing the state’s outstanding universal value (OUV) to protect both of its Unesco sites. 

“We are looking at a bigger picture, certainly we will not endanger such a recognition by Unesco, we will continue to ensure the recognition is maintained,” he said in a press conference today.

The local government committee chairman said the proposed cable car project was already included in the review of the Penang Hill Special Area Plan (SAP). 

“If we want to talk about cable cars, other countries that have received similar recognition from Unesco have cable cars ten times our size or even the same as ours but it does not detract from the outstanding universal value of the sites,” he said.

He stressed that the proposed cable car will not detract from the OUV of the Unesco site. 

“Let me allay your fears, we are doing this for the better of Penang and the people of Penang,” he said.

Jagdeep said the proposed cable car is located in the transition zone of the Penang Hill biosphere reserve site where controlled activities are allowed.

“The SAP looks at the developments for Penang Hill as a whole and makes sure that any developments are sustainable,” he said.

He said the review of the Penang Hill SAP will include input and feedback from the public as per the requirements for the review. 

Meanwhile, the upgrading works of the seawall along the Esplanade is nearing completion after it was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jagdeep said the seawall project is expected to be completed by the first quarter of next year. 

The seawall project is part of an overall North Seafront Masterplan project that encompasses the whole Esplanade vicinity stretching from Dewan Sri Pinang to Fort Cornwallis and the entrance to Swettenham Pier. 

“We have also decided to create a public park from the cenotaph up to the food court as part of the project,” Jagdeep announced today. 

The park, called the seawall linear garden, is adjacent to the seawall and it will serve to complement the seawall and enhance the public open space there when it reopens to the public in 2022. 

The public park will be in addition to the reinstatement of the Fort Cornwallis moat which Jagdeep believed will be a tourist attraction on its own. 

“The Fort Cornwallis moat project will start next year and it will add to the OUV of our Unesco heritage site,” he said. 

The concept masterplan for the overall North Seafront project is developed by the George Town Conservation and Development Corporation (GTCDC), a tripartite partnership between the Penang state government’s Chief Minister’s Incorporated (CMI), Think City Sdn Bhd and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

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