Save Langkawi from any more haphazard planning

By YS Chan


YESTERDAY, the Kedah state government signed a joint-venture agreement with Kuala Lumpur-based Widad Business Group Sdn Bhd (WBG) to build a massive project at Padang Mat Sirat near the Langkawi airport.

The mixed development area will be worth RM40 bil in gross development value (GDV) and would span 1,979 acres, of which 90% would be an artificial island off the west coast of the main Langkawi island that covers over 79,000 acres.

If completed in 15 to 20 years as planned, it would have high-end developments such as hotels, offices and business towers, shopping complexes, hospitals and universities.

Once completed, it will benefit many, especially the state government, WBG and many investors, tenants, workers, suppliers and visitors.

However, all these will only be possible if there is sufficient funding and market for such developments, and if Langkawi remains duty free including for vehicles, tobacco and liquor. But this may not be so if the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) increases its power and influence in the coming years.

While strategic business plans are crucial for developers, the welfare of the local communities and state of the environment must also be considered. These can easily be determined in the social impact assessment (SIA) and environmental impact assessment (EIA).

Unless there are classified under Official Secrets Act, both the SIA and EIA should be put up for public scrutiny. These documents would prove whether and how the project could benefit the locals, ensure minimal damage to the environment and to get the buy-in from the public.

Making claims now that the project would include development of a golf course and hosting the annual Red Bull air race, power boat race and jet ski races, plus having fireworks festivals to promote Langkawi as a major tourism destination seems rather premature.

Several years ago, I spent three weeks in Langkawi attending an “Asean Tourism Master Trainer” programme and was disheartened to see that Jalan Pantai Cenang at the south west corner of the main island looking more like any other inland town.

This is because the street was lined with shops and buildings on both sides of the road, with one side obstructing the beach and blocking the view of the sea.

Ideally, there should be no manmade structures on the seashore side so that everyone could enjoy a panoramic view of the sky, horizon, islets, sea, boats and beach activities.

Hence, Pantai Cenang can no longer be developed into an international class tourist belt and attract high-spending tourists. It would have to contend with budget tourists and local visitors.

It will be sad if haphazard planning continues in Langkawi unabated. – Jan 21, 2021


YS Chan is Asean Tourism Master Trainer for travel agencies, master trainer for Travel & Tours Enhancement Course and Mesra Malaysia (both programmes under Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture). He is also a tourism and transport industry consultant and writer.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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