The Blueprint of Cameron Highlands 2030 (Replacement)

16th January 2016-Under The Town and Country Planning Act 1976 (Act 172), local plans are formulated to set up the direction, the development of a town should take. It should adhere to the development plans of the country (the 2nd National Physical Plan) and the state (Pahang Structural Plan 2002-2020.) Local plans are essentially the “Blueprints” of a town.

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If one understands the “blueprints” one would not be “surprised” nor “shocked” when large swath of virgin forests goes or mountains get wiped out from the earth or high rise buildings suddenly pops up in the middle of the town square!

The new blueprint of Cameron Highlands up to the year 2030 ( Rancangan Tempatan Daerah Cameron Highlands 2030 Penggantian )is now up for viewing at the local town council and the deadline has been extended to the 18th of January 2016 ( ie 48 hours from now). Do spare some time this weekend and download the pdf copies from the local council website www.mdcameron.gov.my . In the homepage click on ‘ Awam’ then on ‘ Muat Turun Borang’ Some sections are missing and some are duplicated. For those missing maps we will upload them on our webpage.

There were 2 previous local plans for Cameron Highlands namely

-The Local Plan of Cameron Highlands 1998-2010

-The Local District Plan of Cameron Highlands 2003-2015

Over the last 2 decades, illegal clearing and development of land which contradicts Section 18(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 ( Act 172)became a massive problem. (This section of the Act states that “No one shall use or permit to be used any land or building otherwise than in conformity with the Local Plan)

This led to frequent landslides and flash floods involving the loss of lives and property, culminating in the flash flood on the 21st of November 2014. A special meeting held 3 days later, chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister recommended the preparation of a new Local Plan to replace the existing one to “restore Cameron Highlands to its former glory as a Highland tourist destination”. This was how this replacement Local Plan came to be and this is provided for under Section 16(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1976.

This draft local plan comes in 3 volumes with the 1st volume being mainly on the overall plans and development strategy, the 2nd volume being more specific with maps and information on the different areas. The 3rd volume is on the management and implementation of the plan. Only the first 2 volumes will be gazetted.

For planning purposes Cameron Highlands are divided into 11 blocks (Block Perancang BP)

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BP 1 Brinchang-Tanah RataIMG_0123BP 2 Ringlet-Habu

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BP 3 Blue Valley-Kampung Raja-Kuala TerlaIMG_0148

BP 4 Tringkap-Kea FarmIMG_0163

BP 5 Pinggiran BertamIMG_0178

BP 6 Sungai MensonIMG_0191

BP 7 Ladang BohIMG_0195

BP 8 HSK Kuala TerlaIMG_0199

BP 9 HSK Sg Wi-HSK Bkt JerutIMG_0203

BP 10 TelanokIMG_0208

BP 11 HSK Ulu Lemoi-HSK Bkt BujangIMG_0214

It is not easy to go through the 3 volumes because there is a flood of information and one can get lost sifting through it. But the maps are interesting. Look at it carefully because 0.5cm2 in a different colour in the map can mean that a hillock may be obliterated and similarly 2×2 cm not in the right shade of green can mean “life or death” for an entire valley of pristine montane forests. You only have to look at the centre of Tanah Rata today to know how important blueprints can be. Our ancient forests in the “wrong place” in the blueprints were here for millenniums, but gone in a day.

The objective of this local draft plan is noble as it aims to restore the “Glory of Cameron Highlands as a prime highland tourist destination by emphasizing on rehabilitation, preservation and enhancement of the surroundings through good developmental practices.”

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However after scrutinising it, we found some of the development plans to be contradictory to the aims of this local plan. If some of the projects in this plan is carried out, the environmentally damage will be huge ranging from loss of biodiversity, slope instability, shallower waterways in an already exhausted river system and compromising further water catchment areas. It will result in more landslides and flash floods, the very problems that this replacement plan seek to prevent.

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On paper, some of the maps show the forest cover of Cameron Highlands to be more than 57 %, with the areas of Sg Wi, Lemoi and Telanok hardly touched. The reality is something else all together. Similarly statistics shown seem to justify the need for more housing and in the last few years, many development projects were carried out to meet this perceived housing shortage and the environment suffered as a result. On the ground, it is a different tale. In almost all the housing projects, apartments including low and medium cost are rented out to holiday makers as many owners have more than one home. Come weekends and holidays it added to the parking problem and traffic woes.

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Based on the EPU study on the Sustainable Development of the Highlands of Peninsular Malaysia in collaboration with WWF, Cameron Highlands has now exceeded the carrying capacity. In simple terms the infrastructure of Cameron Highlands can no longer cope with a further increase in the population. In this replacement plan,many of the mixed development projects will be in Tanah Rata and Brinchang, the 2 remaining towns with “some green left”. Large areas of the Mentigi Forest Reserves and Ulu Bertam Forest Reserves including hectares of the famed mossy forests and jungle trails will go. What “glory “ is there left of Cameron Highlands then?

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To alleviate the traffic congestion during the peak seasons, the planners came up with one of the longest aerial tram routes in the world. It starts from Kuala Terla and ends in Habu. While it is certain to deface Gunung Brinchang ,will it really reduce the traffic problems? Will the views be worth the damage caused to the environment? Will it be economically viable?

Similarly a proposed alternative road from Tringkap to Habu will cause serious damage to the eastern flank of Gunung Berembun as it crosses very environmental sensitive areas with more than 35 degrees slopes and elevations of more than 1600 metres above sea level. It is also in the Habu water catchment areas and in close proximity to the Robinson Falls as it crosses the Mentigi Forest Reserves. So in this plan , mountains which have been remained fairly undisturbed were”too good” to be left alone.

The grand statement of “ No development, agricultural activity or logging is allowed except for low impact ecotourism, research and educational activities in KSAS (environmental sensitive area) Level 1” were not followed by the planners themselves. “ Tiada pembangunan , pertanian atau pembalakan dibenarkan kecuali bagi aktiviti pelancongan alam semula jadi berimpak rendah, penyelidikan dan pendidikan di KSAS 1”

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In summary .. Will this Blueprint be a Blueprint of hope or a Blueprint of destruction?

Do give your feedback on this replacement Local Plan at the Town Council by the 18th January 2016.