Friday, January 1, 2010

Heritage city swiftlet threat

Phuah Ken LinGEORGE TOWN: The Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) has rapped the state government for its inaction against swiftlet breeding in the inner city centre. It said the state government’s decision to extend the moratorium against swiftlet breeding for another year not only posed a health hazard but was also a threat to the city’s listing as a world heritage site.

Trust president Khoo Salma Nasution said the trust planned to release the statistics of rampant swiftlet breeding in the inner city centre to inspectors from the Unesco heritage authorities.“The number of swiftlet outlets is rising fast, yet there has been no clampdown on the breeding.“The three-time extension of the moratorium has given us no other choice but to include the statistics in our report card for the authorities,” Khoo Salma said.She said the situation has worsened and the trust and Cultural Heritage Action Team (Chat) would submit their findings to international bodies, including Unesco inspection agencies.

Khoo Salma is dismayed by the announcement as it was the third time the moratorium had been extended without any public consultation.She said swiftlet breeding was an agricultural activity that should not be allowed in urban areas.Swiftlet breeders would undoubtedly take the state government’s announcement as a green light to convert many more heritage buildings into swiftlet houses, she added.Chat spokesman Janet Pillai said swiftlet breeding posed a health hazard to residents living in the vicinity.

She said George Town would risk losing its Unesco World Heritage Listing status if the breeders were allowed to continue with their activities.“There are 141 swiftlet houses in the core zone in the inner city and the number is expected to rise.”She said a copy of the report would be forwarded to thestate government to highlight the severity of the situation.State Local Government, Traffic Management and Environment Committee chairmanChow Kon Yeow said on Monday that the decision to extend the deadline on swiftlet breeding was made as the Veterinary Services Departmentand the Town and Country Planning Department were preparing the national swiftlet industry guidelines.

He said the state government had been advised to postpone adopting any guidelines until the cabinet had approved the guidelines.

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