A proposal for cable car lines from the Youth Park, Botanic Garden and Teluk Bahang has been tacked on to the draft Special Area Plan for Penang Hill, which is being touted as a “green, heritage destination”. There is concern, however, that this could add to traffic congestion around the Youth Park/Botanic Garden area while pushing visitors well past the 10000 people/day carrying capacity of the Penang Hill summit, as gazetted in the existing Penang Hill Local Plan.
The executive summary of the Penang Hill draft Special Area Plan does not make any mention of the cable car proposal. So it appears that the cable car proposal is an add-on to the draft SAP. Federal funding may be necessary for this project to take off.
Now that the draft SAP has been prepared, it will move on to the next stage: publicity for the draft and a public display of the draft SAP for not less than four weeks. Based on the feedback, inquiries and hearings will be conducted on the draft, and objections and representations will be considered. When that is completed, the draft may be approved, with or without modifications, or rejected. If it is approved, it will then be gazetted.
Hopefully, this cable car proposal will be thoroughly studied (from all angles especially ecological and traffic) while considering the carrying capacity of Penang Hill.
According to an online article by Goh Ban Lee:
… Penang Hill already has a plan, namely the Penang Hill Local Plan, the only gazetted local plan in the state. It was prepared in 1996 after the controversies surrounding the development plan proposed by Bukit Pinang Leisure Sdn Bhd in 1989.
Although it is not the most exciting plan, it does contain an important caveat in its development. It provides for “the carrying capacity of specific sites… taking into consideration the physical, environmental and infrastructure constraints”. Although the plan provides for 10,000 visitors per day, it cautions that this is an arbitrary number and that there is a need to “monitor for evidence of deteriorations to the physical environment”.
Under the “moderate development” scenario of the Penang Hill Local Plan, the carrying capacity is said to be 8000 persons/day, according to a WWF Malaysia report for the Economic Planning Unit of the PM’s Department in 2001. (At present, during peak periods, close to 10000 or more people are already visiting the hill-top.)
The WWF Malaysia report notes:
The cable car service proposed in the Local Plan has to be viewed upon as a weakness despite the fact that it can improve the efficiency of transportation. Penang Hill does not focus on mass tourism, therefore there is no real need for a mode of transport to ferry large numbers of people. The cable car is also not compatible with the recommended tourism theme (Section 2.5) for Penang Hill; i.e. nature and heritage tourism…
43. The carrying capacity for Penang Hill was determined by taking into consideration the biodiversity conservation as well as the proposed tourist facilities, and infrastructure improvements that are detailed in the Action Plans, and is calculated to be about 4000 visitors per day.
It would be noted that this is lower than the carrying capacity indicated in the Local Plan where a cable car access was provided for. Moreover, the intensive land use zone used here is smaller than that used in Local Plan which included areas of steep slopes which could not be used by visitors.