Speculation is growing in Kuching, Sarawak, that a private developer is to revive a long-shelved plan to instal a cable-car system on Mount Santubong, which is steeped in legend.

Fearing the defacement of a site of unique natural beauty, that is also associated with local folklore and history, residents have started a petition against the project.

NONETalk about the project surfaced after Ting Pek Khiing of Santubong Development Sdn Bhd and a representative of Italy Cable Car Company were said to have briefed Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud(left) earlier this month.

The plan was first initiated several years ago, but was shelved due to strong objections from locals. 

Rahim Bugo, who has initiated the current campaign against the project, said the petition will be submitted to Taib.
    
The mountain got its name from the Iban word for ‘coffin’, which it is said to resemble. The Iban were among the first to settle in the foothills.

There is also evidence of Chinese settlements that date back several hundred years.

A local song ‘Puteri Santubong’ immortalises the story of the young Puteri Santubong and her sister Sinjinjang, who are deemed the protectors of the mountain. 

NONEThe area is also of tourist, recreational and botanical interest, will millions being drawn to the mountain, beach and rainforest.

“The mountain is a source of enjoyment for Sarawakians of all ages,” explained Rahim in calling for the site to be preserved in its natural state.

“The project would cause ecological damage as the summit is a narrow sandstone ridge. It would require extensive modifications to support the large cables, gondolas, machinery, look-out points, office, shops and other infrastructure.

“(Once in place, the cable-car system) will degrade views of the mountain from surrounding areas, including the Sarawak Cultural Village.”

NONEMount Santubong also provides an imposing backdrop to Sarawak’s only internationally known event – the Rainforest World Music Festival.

In addition, a range of activities, such as wildlife watching, jungle trekking, the climb to the summit and mountain biking, will be affected, Rahim said.

He cautioned that the novelty of the project will wear off in time, leading to a drop in revenue and problems in covering operational costs.

There are concerns about safety and maintenance as well, he added.

The writer, who uses a pseudonym, is based in Sarawak.

~ Malaysiakini