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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Safety concerns due to landslides on Cameron Highlands exaggerated, business owners say


Business owners say development on Cameron Highlands is necessary but warn that it must not diminish the popular tourist destination’s natural charm.

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Business owners are concerned that tourists are being deterred from visiting Cameron Highlands due to misapprehensions about the safety of Pahang’s most popular destination due to landslides.

Allan Ng, who operates a souvenir and retail shop in Tanah Rata, told FMT some netizens were “exaggerating” the problem.

As an example, he said a recent road closure along Jalan Tapah-Ringlet was wrongly attributed to a landslide. Ng said the road was closed to allow for the installation of pipelines.

“If you are a domestic tourist, then you will feel that, oh, it’s too risky to come to this place already. So that affects the density (number) of tourists,” he said.

Bobby Kyle, a third-generation strawberry farm owner, agreed, saying the number of tourists visiting his farm dropped significantly after news of a minor landslide spread recently.

“Last week, we had no customers at all, although it was the school holidays,” he said, adding that tourists were likely to have been deterred despite the landslide occurring some distance away from his farm.

Cameron Highlands has become a hotspot for landslides in recent years, with at least four incidents reported in 2023.

It has already seen two landslides this year – one occurring on Jan 26 in Blue Valley which resulted in five fatalities, while the other, which occurred a week earlier forced the closure of Jalan Boh Habu.

The common perception is that these landslides are the result of overdevelopment. However, business owners disagreed.

Tan, a 47-year-old shop owner at Brinchang’s Agro Market, said development is necessary to attract visitors and ensure the sustainability of local businesses.

“If you don’t continue to develop an area, it will lose its prospects and vitality. The area won’t be ‘nice’ if you don’t develop it. Development is good,” he said.

Locals, however, warn against excessive development, saying it is unnecessary and may diminish the natural charm of the highlands, known for its lush landscapes and cool climate.

Tour operator Rani, 49, warns against over-commercialisation of the highlands.

“Some of them, like the Japanese and the Europeans, like nature,” she said.

Rani acknowledged that development is needed, but said it must be focused on creating something “worthwhile”.

“Don’t construct too many buildings,” she said.

Instead, Rani said the authorities should look primarily at improving infrastructure and facilities to cope with the increasing traffic on the highlands, including by setting up proper parking facilities. - FMT

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