THE RM10mil Batu Caves Cable Car project will most likely be scrapped as soil studies carried out by experts failed to confirm its feasibility.
According to the detailed soil stability report, the upper parts of the limestone karsts of the hilltop caves have been zoned as “high risk”, putting a stop to any possibility of development on the 400mil-year-old limestone caves.
A reliable source from the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Dhevasthanam committee has accepted the fact that the cable car project may not be feasible and will no longer push for it.
This was further confirmed when StarMetro visited the project site recently and found it to be cleared of construction equipment. The area had been resurfaced with tar and is now a carpark.
The 130-page report was prepared by two academicians from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UITM) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). It proved that parts of the area were unstable and highly vulnerable to damage, especially to the fragile karst.
The report was divided into two parts — Parcel 1 covered the Batu Caves reserve and Parcel 2 the Gombak Indah area. It presents the findings in a map format and highlights areas as low, medium and high risk.
Last year, a team of state-appointed experts presented the first phase of the findings following a soil stability study for the Batu Caves reserve area to the Selangor Economic Action Council (MTES).
Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) president Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain said the academicians report confirmed the team’s initial findings that the upper parts of Batu Caves, where the Sri Subramaniar Temple is, were unfit to support the cable car project.
The Sri Subramaniar Temple is also a national heritage site.
“While the lower part poses no risk, the upper part poses ‘extreme’ risk, offering little or no possibility of development being carried out at the hill top area,”
“The temple committee was informed of the risks involved and we even asked them to sign a declaration undertaking responsibility for any future incident, thus indemnifying MPS against liability.”
“Mitigating the risk is not going to be easy even if they want to have a cable car service, and I seriously doubt their engineers would want to take that kind of risk anyway,” he added.
He also added that the temple management had to ensure that all 10 structures in the temple were legalised, including obtaining safety certifications from the Fire and Rescue Department.
Mohd Azizi reiterated that safety was, and would always be, the council’s top priority, outweighing any other consideration.
Proponents of the cable car line argued that the system would benefit the disabled, senior citiziens, and people with health problems. The temple management have, for decades, been trying to build a cable car service at the iconic landmark.
Attempts were made in 1997, 1999 and 2007 but the project did not materialise.
In 2012, the temple management signed a deal with a company from India, to build a cable car system.
The cars would run from the cave temple complex to the carpark using a 150m cable.
The cable car line was to comprise a lower station near the foot of the temple staircase and an upper station near the hilltop temple. The project was supposed to be completed in 2014.
The development order for the cable-car project was approved by MPS in late 2011, but a stop-work order was issued in 2013 to compel the temple management to submit their documents to legalise the other existing structures on the premises.
MPS also asked the state government to allow for the soil study in the Batu Caves temple site to be completed to ensure the project was safe.
But, in July of the same year, the temple committee defied the local authority’s order and proceeded with soil piling work resulting in enforcement officers sealing off the project site after being tipped off that construction work that had resumed.
The Batu Caves temple management was also slapped with two compound notices totalling RM26,000.
Batu Caves, touted as a national treasure, draws millions of people from all over the world each year especially during the annual Thaipusam festival.