PETALING JAYA: An environmental impact assessment (EIA) must be conducted before any development at the 400-million-year-old Batu Caves is considered, said Friends of Batu Caves (FoBC).
The environmental coalition urged the Selangor government and Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to insist, with immediate effect, on an EIA for any development activities at and within the Batu Caves’ buffer area.
FoBC stressed that this was crucial in view of Batu Caves’ status as a national heritage site and its proposed listing as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
“Although this may not be required by law at the moment, special consideration should be given to the area.
“Particularly since there have been recent calls by prominent figures including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel for Batu Caves to be nominated as a World Heritage Site,” it said.
It added that the operational guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention clearly stated that impact assessments for proposed interventions were essential for all World Heritage properties.
FoBC warned that Batu Caves’ location within a densely populated and heavily developed area meant that it was highly vulnerable to irreversible damage, especially to the fragile karst and cave ecosystems of the limestone hill.
It lauded the stop-work order which was issued by the Selayang Municipal Council for the controversial cable car project, as well as the establishment of a special task force to deliberate on the status of structures at the Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam temple there.
Council president Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain said last week that the temple committee had submitted building plans for 20 illegally-built structures inside the temple compound for the council’s assessment.
He said that the stop-work order would be lifted for the cable car project if everything was found to be in order.
However, the council would first need to submit its final report for the state government’s approval.
He had expressed his concern about public safety due to the unstable soil surrounding Batu Caves, saying that the state’s Town and Country Planning and Economic Planning departments would be conducting soil tests.
The members of FoBC include the Malaysian Nature Society, EcoKnights, Treat Every Environment Special, WWF-Malaysia, Rimba, Cave Management Group Sdn Bhd and Resource Stewardship Consultants Sdn Bhd.