DRAFT guidelines for the camping industry are out and have been circulated to stakeholders.
Prepared by the Town and Country Planning Department (PLANMalaysia), which is under the Local Government Development Ministry, the draft includes feedback from relevant communities involved in the outdoor activity.
Among the requirements which have got campsite operators anxious include the need for sites to have facilities like access roads, toilets, sewerage system, common cooking area, water and electricity supply, drainage, telecommunication as well as rubbish management system.
Having a distance from water bodies, cliff edges, hillslopes and power lines has also been outlined.
Raised platforms must also be built for tent sites and a distance of 3m must be observed between each tent.
The guidelines were drafted following the Dec 16 landslide last year at Father’s Organic Farm campsite in Batang Kali.
A total of 31 people, including several children, died in the tragedy.
Stakeholders give feedback
Malaysian Camping Association secretary Tengku Nina Ali highlighted two points in her social media post on Family Camping Malaysia, a public Facebook page which has 523,000 members.
Discussions on the Facebook page mostly centred on the distance between two tents and the provision of toilets at a ratio of one for every tent.
The 47-page draft guidelines state that house rules and emergency signage must also be set up.
A campsite must comply with conditions set by the respective authorities such as Fire and Rescue Department for buildings, Tenaga Nasional Bhd for electrical wiring and Indah Water Konsortium for sewerage system.
“While there were some campsite operators who did not see the necessity for the 3m distance, calling it a space limiting feature, it was also pointed out that it would help accommodate rigging as well as prevent overcrowding.
“The most debated topic was the toilet issue as camp operators felt that having one for every tent was ‘a bit too much’.
“The guidelines should be kept as simple as possible with emphasis on safety and security, not comfort and luxury which should be up to the operators’ discretion,” said Tengku Nina.
She said there was no need for some of the facilities as this would deviate from camping’s “going back to nature” concept, but places that have offered themselves as camping sites must inform campers on what is available and what is not.
Yap Khim Leng, who runs a campsite in Bentong, Pahang, said toilets are a pricey component where campsite set-up is concerned.
“I spent close to RM60,000 to instal two septic tanks and build eight toilet-cum-shower cubicles.
“We used to draw water from Sungai Tanglir but with Gohtong Jaya located upstream, discharge from the restaurants and surface runoff from the roads have polluted the water.
“There are also days when the water will turn brown.
“So we decided to use treated water from Pengurusan Air Pahang Bhd (Paip).
“All in, we have 18 pipe outlets, which cost RM6,000 to instal,” said Yap.
He said campers had learned to value sites that have environmental preservation principles in place.
“Many campers do not like to see washing areas draining wastewater directly into the river or onto the ground,” he noted.
Yap supported the requirements for campsites to maintain a certain distance from riverbanks, cliff edges and hillslopes.
“This is especially needed after the tragic Batang Kali landslide last year,” he said.
When it was pointed out to him that the distance required by PLANMalaysia might eliminate any chances of the setting up of a campsite if the slope was deemed unsafe by a certified engineer, he said that it would be better to avert tragedy and not put the lives of campers at risk.
Yap also agreed with the requirement for access roads as this would mean campers would be able to reach a site more easily, bringing more business to the operator.
On the matter of raised platforms for tent sites, Yap said they should not be made compulsory though they were useful in keeping tent floors dry.
Mohamed Taufik Omar, president of Hulu Selangor Campsite Owners Group which represents 40 members, said toilet and sewerage facilities were important as it would prevent human waste from polluting nearby rivers.
“But one toilet to a tent is outrageous. It will be more feasible to have one for every four instead,” he said.
Going over some of the points stated in the guidelines, Mohamed Taufik felt leeway should be given for the 3m requirement where big family groups were concerned, as they would want to be close to each other.
“There is also no necessity for a common cooking area as campers prefer to cook near their own tents.
“However, campsite operators should provide fire extinguishers for emergencies.
“For rubbish disposal, though some campsites have a zero rubbish policy, meaning campers would have to take away their own rubbish, some will throw their trash by the road the moment they exit the campsite.
“Therefore, it is highly recommended that operators take responsibility.
“As for the telecommunication requirement, it would not be fair to insist that the operator be made responsible for its provision as this should come under the purview of the Communications and Digital Ministry.
“As it is, if parts of the city are unable to receive coverage, what more when it comes to villages and riversides?” said Mohamed Taufik who runs a campsite at Jalan Ulu Tamu in Batang Kali.
Malaysia Instructor of Bushcraft and Survival Association vice-president Mohd Anwar Abd Ariff lauded the guidelines as timely following the number of commercial campsites that have mushroomed lately.
He said these guidelines would be a boon to sites who already have measures in place but a bane to those who did not.
“From my 15 years of experience, I have seen campsites situated right beside riverbanks, which may be great where scenery is concerned but is in fact a safety risk.
“During heavy rain, a small river can grow to over a metre deep and added with the force of a flowing current, campers can be swept away.
“Some operators would set up their toilets and washing areas just beside the river, discharging the waste either directly into the river or to the ground at some camps in Hulu Langat.”
He also highlighted that some sites electrical wiring left a lot to be desired.
“Either they are hanging too low or left trailing on the ground.
“I have also seen operators marking tent sites under huge trees.
“These spots may be cool and shady but a falling branch from a nearby tree, no thicker than one’s forearm, may be fatal to a camper,” said Mohd Anwar.
Carmen Coudray, 38, who is founder and administrator for All About Camping Malaysia, a public Facebook group with 99,000 members, hopes that the local authorities will assist operators to provide campers with a safe environment.
“I know of some camp operators with hilltop sites who have carried out vegetation clearing and earthworks.
“To ensure these sites are safe, the local authorities should educate them on the procedures for setting up campsites.
“Operators must also watch out for early warning signs of natural disasters.
“They must have the means to communicate this to campers and neighbouring operators via sirens or walkie-talkies.
“Campsite operators should view these procedures as a way to provide a better environment to their customers and help the industry progress,” said Coudray.
She suggested that local governments come up with a grading system for campsites under their purview.
This grading could be used as a means to help them upgrade and gain better visibility in the market.
“Category A will be for campsites who are able to fulfil all safety and planning guidelines.
“These can be targeted at newbies to experience camping within a safe environment.
“Category B will be for those who have adequately met the requirements.
“Category C will be for campers who want to have a thrilling campsite experience and can identify as well as take measures to minimise safety risks.
“Category D will be reserved for sites that only provide the bare basics.
“This method of grading will give campers a first-hand indication of what to expect and also help them determine whether the particular campsite is suitable to their skill level,” Coudray added.
Amendments being mulled
PLANMalaysia Research and Development director Dr Chee Ping Ngang said it had taken a team of eight members three months to draft the guidelines.
“The guidelines were formulated based on literature review, benchmarking studies from overseas and engagement with stakeholders such as local authorities, state governments, technical agencies and campsite operators.
“They will apply to all states in Peninsular Malaysia,” she said.
To come up with the guidelines, the agency disseminated two online survey forms on March 2 – one for the public and another for campsite operators – to collect nationwide information with the submission deadline on March 18.
In the surveys and registration forms for campsite operators, respondents had to state how their campsites were being operated, fees charged, type of facilities provided, type of approval obtained from authorities to operate and if approval had been obtained for any structures erected.
Following the information obtained, the draft was prepared and posted on the agency’s social media pages.
Industry players were given from April 18 till May 1 to submit their feedback on the draft.
A focus group discussion was also held on April 13, attended by 100 people, of which 50% were campsite operators, to discuss aspects of the draft.
“We received quite a number of comments from the online public consultation,” said Chee.
“Now we are doing the amendments.
“Among the areas targeted for improvements are toilet requirements, distance between tents, distance from high risk attraction spots and the requirement of platforms to be built for each tent site,” she said.
Overall, the guidelines are still under discussion and nothing is finalised until it has been approved by the Local Government Development Ministry, she added.
Selangor local government, public transportation and new village development committee chairman Ng Sze Han said 99 campsite operators had submitted their applications to the state government as of March 31.
“We believe there are more than 200 campsites in Selangor, especially in the Selayang, Ampang Jaya, Kajang and Hulu Selangor municipalities,” said Ng.