Save Bukit Larut, Say NO to Hill Development

Bukit Larut, formerly known as Maxwell hill, is the smallest and oldest of the hill resorts in Peninsular Malaysia. A hill resort was built on Bukit Larut in 1880’s comprising several bungalows and rest houses. It has been appreciated for over a century for its unique highland atmosphere, rich flora and fauna history and culture. Bukit Larut also supports many important ecological processes, the most important of which is its function as a water catchment area for Taiping and surrounding areas. It is also a place of immense sentimental value to generations of Taiping residents.

The residents of Taiping, and other visitors, feel strongly and are passionate about the hill and view it as a perfect haven and escape from the pressures and noisy environment of urban life.

Development on Bukit Larut and its surroundings has for many years remained small scale. In early 1997, however, the Perak State Government approved a RM320 million project to develop Bukit Larut. The planned development included among others, three-story four star hotels, a highland flower garden, lookout tower, seminar centre and a 400m suspension bridge. The aim of the project was to enhance the potential of Bukit Larut which was considered by the State to have not been fully exploited.

Following the objections on the proposed development from residents and several NGOs, including ERA Consumer and the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (FOMCA), as well as some political pressures, the State Government in June 1997, announced its decision to review the project with the view of either scaling down or shelving the project altogether. In July 1997, the State government announced that all major projects at the Bukit Larut hill resort and Taiping Lake Gardens had been cancelled following the strong protest from residents and consumer groups. The only plans that were known to continue were those to renovate the existing bungalows and rest houses at Bukit Larut at a cost of RM2million.

In year 2007, a RM60 million cable car project was proposed under the pretext of boosting tourism in Bukit Larut. The proposal was turned down due protest from the communities and NGOs. Again in January 2009, the Perak State government announced the plan to build and operate cable car sevices in Bukit Larut. Despite strong protest from the NGOs, environmentalists, and local communities, the Perak state government made an announced in Jun 2010, and this time, the decision was to go ahead with the RM65 million project.

Although the Chief Minister of Perak promised that project was only made after the concessionaire had given an undertaking to preserve the environment and avoid any soil erosion when carrying out the construction, especially when building the main structure (poles for cable car), using helicopters, instead of clearing the jungle, environmentalists are still not confident and there were worries that Bukit Larut may become another Bukit Antarabangsa or Cameron Highlands.

Prof Dr Roslan Zailan Abidin, Director of National Landslide Research Centre (UiTM) had identified Bukit Larut as one of the fourteen high risk area prone to landslide in Malaysia. These areas are going to be more dangerous if continuous rain falls for 3 days or more.

The diversity in flora and fauna has enabled Malaysia to earn a prestigous spot as one of the 12 mega biodiversity countries in the world. In the report in “A global overview of protected areas on the world heritage list of particular importance for biodiversity – 2000” produced by World Conservation Monitoring Centre, UNEP, Bukit Larut has been classified as Regional Centre of Plant Diversity.

In year 2009, ERA Consumer together with FOMCA, launched a campaign named Save Bukit Larut, Say NO to Hill Over-development. This Bukit Larut preservation effort is an effort for all Taiping folks. Many Taiping residents had joined this course to save Bukit Larut and many other hills from falling as a prey to development. Destruction of highlands is destroying our own future. As a result of the campaign, the Perak state government halted the proposed cable car project in Bukit Larut.

ERA Consumer strongly feels the urgent need to gather the local communities,
especially the younger generation to treasure the wealth of biodiversity on Bukit Larut.