Tmn Saikat residents wary of projects near Ipoh limestone hills

A spot where a cafes will built along the foot of the limestone hill at Taman Saikat. - RONNIE CHIN/The Star

IPOH: Residents at Taman Saikat here are protesting the construction of any tourism and commercial activities at the foot of the limestone hills just behind their houses.

Its Residents Association chairman Surindar Singh said the Qing Xin Ling Leisure and Cultural Village was built near the limestone hills in 2015, and caused traffic congestion and safety issues for the residents due to its large number of visitors.

He said with these issues yet to be resolved, new access roads leading to the area, a cafe and an eco-park are in the pipeline.

"Ipoh City Council has never held any engagement session with residents to tell us what is happening since our last meeting on Jan 11, this year," he said, adding that they stated their opposition to development at the limestone hills.

He also claimed they had been kept in the dark since.

He said construction of the access road started about a month ago and continued until they lodged a police report.

"Police intervened and they stopped for a while but three days ago, a signboard about the project was suddenly put up," he told reporters at the site on Sunday (July 23).

Surindar said residents who have been staying in the area for more than 20 years are worried about the consequences of the projects due to the fragile nature of limestone hills.

"As it is now, residents face daily traffic congestion with visitors to the cultural village parking haphazardly and blocking entrances.

"Our children can no longer play freely in front of our houses because of speeding vehicles," he added.

He said construction of the access road is also going to cut through a natural pond that acts as a retention pond during heavy rain.

Surindar also said that the some 3,000 residents have been put at risk for some other party's benefit and profit.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia field officer Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman said under the Ipoh City Local Plan 2035, the area where the construction is taking place as well as the area where there are plans for the eco-park and cafe, is in a green zone.

"I don't think there has been any change to the zoning, but there is permission for urban farming at the park given, which contradicts the local plan.

"Also, the green area and the forest area is home to a protected gibbon species under the Wildlife Act,'' he added.

"The contractor is unable to provide a permit to show that they have permission to construct the access road, which is probably under river reserve land," he said.

Cheng Swee Kiat, the managing director of KF Realty Management Sdn Bhd, which manages Qing Xin Ling, claimed he was not aware of a cafe or any other plans at the foothill.

He said during the Jan 11, 2023, meeting, the mayor had announced the construction of the access road and the cost would be shared by the council as well as KF Realty Management.

"Once the road is constructed, vehicles will use that road and will no longer need to pass through Taman Saikat," he added.

When contacted, a spokesperson from the Ipoh City Council said they would issue an official statement on July 24.

When contacted, state housing and local government committee chairman Sandrea Ng Shy Ching said the construction of the road was a project between the council and a private company to solve the issues faced by the residents by Qing Xin Ling visitors.

"The council will be arranging for an engagement session with residents to brief them about the project soon," she added.

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