COMMENT | Limestone caves and hills: Are we destructive barbarians?

Andrew Sia

Modified 24 Mar 2021, 4:07 am

COMMENT | How should we treat our majestic limestone hills and caves? Should we protect them for their many long-term benefits? Of being landmarks in our landscape? For their recurring income from tourism?

How about so that bats have homes and can keep doing their priceless biological service of pollinating durian trees and eating insect pests? And to preserve the many unique species there, which may hold the cure for cancer or other diseases?

Yet, against all these benefits, Malaysia seems to have chosen another route - to hack them down for one-off, short-term gains, because it’s the cheapest way to get limestone, instead of paying a bit more to dig underground for it.

The current controversial quarrying of Gunung Baling in Kedah, by the PAS-led state government, is just the latest in many assaults on our limestone heritage - which has taken millions of years to become such splendid sculptures of nature, better than any master artist's ink paintings of Chinese landscapes - only to be demolished within months.

It's like some uncivilised tribe knocking down antique shophouses in Malacca - to just sell off the bricks and tiles.

This writer has actually been to Gunung Baling, or rather inside it, at a wonderful cave called Gua Layang. Having done adventure caving, I can testify that all the climbing, crawling, ropes, helmets, and lights are an adrenaline rush that can make anyone feel like Indiana Jones exploring glorious hidden chambers.

Adventure caving may seem like niche tourism for now, but it may be the next big thing. Remember that few people wanted to go into “scary jungles with snakes” in the past, but see how hiking has now exploded in Malaysia...

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