Implement rules fairly and cautiously, say industry players

PETALING JAYA: As calls for regulating campsites ring louder in the wake of the deadly landslide in Batang Kali, industry players want any new rules to be implemented fairly and cautiously with a time frame given for enforcement.

They also want the government to be fair and to engage with the operators before deciding to implement regulations or new safety standards.

Adventure tour and event organiser James Chee said efforts to regulate campsite operators should be carried out gradually besides providing them with a time frame to comply before enforcement.

Campsite providers, he added, had contributed a lot to local tourism over the past two years so the government must take a positive view and help them in the process of licensing and educating them on safety and risk management.

“Campsite operators need to pay attention to both the safety and hygiene aspects of their sites to prevent potential natural disasters, such as flash flood, landslide, lightning strike or even falling trees, and insects or animal attack on campers.

“On hygiene, an operator must prevent the spread of diseases like rat urine (leptospirosis) water contamination, which may result in dysentery among campers and which could happen at dirty camping or picnic grounds,” Chee said,

He added that the list of standards would also vary across different campsites.

Following the landslide at Father’s Organic Farm in Batang Kali on Dec 16, Selangor exco member Hee Loy Sian had said that the state had no specific guidelines to regulate campsites and that the state government would only now work with the Tourism Ministry to draw these up.

This, he said, would include a proposal disallowing tents to be set up at the foot of a slope.

Earlier, Local Government Development Minister Nga Kor Ming had revealed that the operator did not have a valid licence to host camping activities.

However, there have been calls for the government to set a list of safety standards that all camping providers must adhere to prevent a similar tragedy.

Some have called for a Risk Assessment Management System at the beginning of every year to eliminate possible hazards at camping sites and for hosts to ensure that their guests had been sufficiently briefed on the possible risks.

Chee said an annual risk assessment test or getting geologists or engineers to conduct suitability studies of a site might be too costly and not viable for small campsite operators whose locations were generally located in relatively safe areas.

However, he said, operators who built on hill slopes and hilltops, especially on grounds disturbed by earth works or deforestation, should consider taking more scientific steps to determine if their site was safe for such activity.

“Regulating the industry will also allow geological experts to determine if an area is safe for camping purposes.

“Operators should also do a thorough survey of the area to understand the history of natural occurrences such as flash floods, landslides or other potential dangers in that area prior to building a campsite,” he said.

Chee urged the government to also look into regulating budget resorts operating in similar locations around the country.

A campsite provider in Perak, who requested anonymity, said the government should engage industry players and conduct a proper assessment and pilot project before enforcing any law or standard operating procedures.

“Campsite providers have always tried their best to minimise risk at their sites and the implementation of additional risk assessment measures should not burden business owners.

“The government should also look into the viability of implementing such regulations as there are multiple campsites at different locations with different ‘history’ so all these should be detailed out.

“The government should be fair to us as we have also made our contribution to the tourism industry,” he said, adding that his campsite had received visitors from, among others, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and China.

He said he was unable to register his campsite with the local authorities after he was told that there were no such licences, adding, however, that most campsites, including his, were already registered under the Companies Commission.

A member of the Hiking And Camping Around Malaysia group (Hacam), known only as Kyrol, said regulating campsites and implementing charges might pose a risk to the camping industry.

The group has over 400,000 followers on Facebook.

“If we regulate, there are possibilities that local authorities will impose charges. There are increase in charges for everything now. If our industry also increase our fees, there may be fewer campers.

“That is why many operators are against it... if we increase cost, it will anger the people but if we cut cost, it would be like we are donating to charity,” said Kyrol, who is also owner of an adventure tour organiser.

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campsites , regulate , rules , Batang Kali , landslide


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