GEORGE TOWN: Some 29 villages in Penang with their Malay heritage culture are at risk of disappearing forever, in the wake of rampant development projects in the area, say academicians.
Among the affected villages are Kampung Bagan Dalam, Kampung Batu Maung, Kampung Batu Uban, Kampung Binjal, Kampung Buah Pala, Kampung Dalca, Kampung Dodol, Kampung Gajah, Kampung Genting, Kampung Lima Kongsi, Kampung Makam, Kampung Melayu, Kampung Nelayan, Kampung Padang Benggali and Kampung Pisang.
Other villages that might be at risk are Kampung Permatang Tepi Laut, Kampung Permatang Tok Subuh, Kampung Pondok Upeh, Kampung Pokok Asam, Kampung Pulau Jelutong, Kampung Selut, Kampung Siam, Kampung Sungai Nibong Kecil, Kampung Tanjongn Tokong, Kampung Teluk Air Tawar, Kampung Teluk Kumbar, Kampung Tengah Jelutong, Kampung Tengah Air Itam and Kampung Terang.
Assoc Prof Dr Azeem Fazwan Ahmad Farouk, of Universiti Sains Malaysia’s policy research and international studies centre, said most of the affected villages were located in the North-East District.
He said besides rampant development projects, another contributing factor was that the villagers lived on land that belonged to other people.
“When the landlords develop the land (on which the village stands), that village will be gone forever, given another name and so on.
“This had happened before and is already happening. If we look at villages in Sungai Nibong here for instance, they were long gone from the Penang map because the land was developed into housing projects, condominium and other buildings.
“At one time there might have been people living there, but the villages are not there any more. This is the challenge that is being faced in this state,” he told Bernama recently.
Azeem Fazwan said the implementation of projects for the Penang Transport Master Plan (Ptmp)would also contribute to the disappearance of such villages as these projects involved the acquisition of land.
If the master plan projects were to materialise, the landscape of Penang would be changed and the current villages would be gone, too.
“If this (Ptmp) were to happen, the landscape of Penang would totally change especially in the South-West district. So, when the development begins to spread to the South-West district, the current villages in Bayan Lepas, Teluk Kumbar, Batu Maung and Teluk Bahang will disappear,” he said.
It was possible that these traditional villages would be out of the picture in five years’ time if there were no efforts by stakeholders to protect and preserve the villages.
Another academician, Professor Ahmad Murad Merican, said traditional villages must be gazetted under the National Heritage Act to ensure the villages would not vanish.
He said the state government should play its role in gazetting the villages immediately so that the identity of the Malay community in the areas remained protected and intact.
“The first challenge in gazetting traditional villages is to carry out inventory and define what is meant by traditional village. The definition of traditional villlage has not been formalised. Not all 660 villages in Penang can be considered as traditional village.
“So, we choose a strategic village, for instance, to be turned into traditional village,” he said.