By MANJIT KAUR
DESPITE the moratorium on swiftlet farming, birdhouses are still being erected on the island, said Penang Local Government and Traffic Management Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow. He said that prior to 2008, only 20-over licences were issued for the industry but there were now about 200 swiftlet farms.
Chow said the Pakatan Rakyat administration never issued any licences but he was aware of new birdhouses being erected illegally during this period. “Action can be taken against them,” he told reporters after chairing the Penang Local Government Consultative Forum at the Caring Society Complex yesterday.
Chow said they continued to have meetings on the issue at state level and with the local councils, department heads and non-governmental organisations. “We will hold another meeting with the National Heritage Department next week on the Integrated Swiftlets Industry Development Guidelines.
“We can consider various views but all the feedback on the guidelines will be raised at the Local Government National Council Meeting,” he added. Earlier, a discussion involving the Association of Swiftlet Nests Industry president Carole Loh, the state Veterinary Department and several other NGOs was held.
Loh said many people had the wrong perception about the industry, saying the association was willing to compromise with the authorities but a win-win solution was needed. “We have invested so much money into the business after being asked by the previous administration to set up the farms and now the government want us to just move out,” she said.
“There are claims the industry will be a threat to the Unesco listing but I am sure when the status was given, the relevant authorities knew about the industry in George Town. “The swiftlets are a living heritage and were around even before the Unesco status was accorded,” she added. Loh asked where the hundreds of swiftlets would go if their natural habitat was to be destroyed. “Moving out of George Town is not negotiable. In theory, everything can be done but in practice the situation is different,” she added.
Penang municipal councillor Lim Kah Cheng said it was not possible to farm in urban areas, especially in George Town. “If swiftlets are allowed, then how are we going to stop others from having chicken farms?” she asked. “The new government will not follow what has been enforced by the previous administration,” she said, adding that there were laws and regulations to be followed.
Malaysian Nature Society branch chairman D. Kanda Kumar said it was up to the state to adopt the guidelines. “We are not against swiftlet farming but I think the farms should be located in suitable areas,” he added.