Sunday, May 15, 2011

State admits Unesco never asked for swiftlet ban in city

GEORGE TOWN: Unesco never called for a ban on swiftlet farming in the George Town world heritage site.
The international body also did not impose any regulations on the country after Penang and Malacca were jointly listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008, Local Government and Traffic Management Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said.

“However, swiftlet farming would have a negative impact on the inner city’s outstanding universal value (OUV) which gave rise to the listing — hence the state government’s decision to impose the ban.
“George Town’s OUV is that the city is a thriving port in the Straits of Malacca with multi-cultural heritage and unique shophouse architecture.

“Although Unesco never asked for a ban on swiftlet farming, the activity jeopardises the listing because of its negative impact on the OUV,” he said in his winding up speech at the state assembly.Chow said swiftlet farming had caused the building facade and streetscape to change, residents to move out leaving the buildings empty and was a disturbance to the nearby residents.

“These affect the OUV which is why the George Town Unesco World Heritage Site Special Area Plan does not allow swiftlet farming in the heritage zone.” Interjecting, Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya (BN-Teluk Bahang) said instead of banning the activity, the state government should formulate creative guidelines to prevent the OUV from being compromised.

“Unesco didn’t ask for a ban so why is there a need for us to do so? “The birds may not follow if you get the swiftlet home operators to move to another zone. Bird nest farming is a lucrative business so this ban will cause us to lose a lot of money.

“I am sure we can come up with enforceable guidelines so that the swiftlet operators need not move out.
“We can even encourage businesses related to swiftlet farming such as the sale of bird nest products and drinks in the inner city,” he said.

Defending the ban, Chow said the existing 100-odd swiftlet farms in the heritage enclave would otherwise mushroom to 1,000. The Opposition and backbenchers have called on the state government to identify zones for bird nest farming in the state.

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