Unesco heritage status possible for Penang’s gardens, says expert

Singapore Botanic Gardens director Nigel Taylor (third from right) with Penang Botanic Gardens department director Mohd Azwa Shah at the MoU signing today.

GEORGE TOWN: Penang’s Botanic Gardens (PBG) and its surrounding Penang Hill range could possibly clinch a Unesco World Heritage Site listing, owing to its mix of “hot and cold” climate, according to a renowned botanist.

Nigel Taylor, who was curator of London’s Kew Gardens for three decades, said this was due to the unique coming together of the rolling hills and tropical botanic gardens below.

He said compared with the Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG) Penang had cultural and natural features, which sets it above Singapore in its uniqueness.

“We have a small 6 hectare reserve of rainforests surviving in SBG, but here in Penang you have a huge area around the garden on Penang Hill.

“In terms of biodiversity, it is an extremely interesting environment, it is the meeting of the full on tropical flora with some elements of a temperate flora.

“We do not have that in Singapore, so you have something very special, which makes it a special and a strong argument to make it a Unesco site,” Taylor said today.

Taylor is currently director of the SBG.

Earlier, the PBG signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with SBG, where Penang will tap into SBG’s expertise to turn it into a Unesco-listed site, among other benefits.

SBG’s Taylor and PBG director Mohd Azwa Shah signed the MoU today, witnessed by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and state town and country planning committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo.

The MoU entails the transfer of technology with the SBG on matters of horticulture, gardens and collection management, research and capacity building, among others.

The objective of the MoU is to increase the accessibility and knowledge of both parties’ floristic resources and enhance research and training in botany, plant conservation, horticulture and botanical gardens management.

Taylor said the signing of the MoU would bring two long-lost sister gardens which began in the late 1800s together again.

The SBG received recognition as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2015.

The gardens is the first in Asia to receive such an honour, and the third botanical gardens in the world following Orto botanico di Padova, Italy, and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England.

Last year, the Penang Botanical Gardens announced it will come under new management via a government-linked corporation, following the passing of the Penang State Park (Botanic) Corporation Enactment 2017.


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