Peninsular Malaysia is blessed with dozens of amazingly shaped limestone pinnacles, rising steeply hundreds of meters above the surrounding landscape. These hills often contain caves and are usually coated with dense vegetation with rich bio-diversity and are home to rare flora and fauna.
These national treasures should be preserved and protected as part of Malaysia’s unique natural heritage and valued for their outstanding beauty and recreational potential. To be fair, some of them are protected but quite a number are being hacked to pieces by uncaring quarry owners who are converting the limestone into cement or crushed stone. Here is an example I saw recently near Arau, the royal capital of Perlis.
In my opinion, demolishing these hills is a crime on a par with bulldozing virgin rainforest or poaching rhinos. At least rainforest could, in theory, eventually grow back given enough time, whereas these pinnacles are irreplaceable.
There are plenty of other examples, particularly near Ipoh where whole mountains are disappearing. The powers that be in Perak should realise that without their limestone hills, Ipoh would have all the charm of an industrial estate and they can kiss goodbye to the city’s tourism potential.
Some of the hills contain marble or dolomite of other valuable minerals. Such limestone rocks are often being exported in their raw unprocessed state to countries like China where they are being converted into building materials such as kitchen work tops which are then sold back to Malaysia and elsewhere.
To prevent other countries from benefitting from Malaysia’s natural resources in this way, state governments are offering incentives to foreign companies to set up limestone processing plants in a bid to create jobs. But jobs for who? Malaysia is chronically short of workers and it is estimated that there are over 3 million foreign workers in Malaysia, legally and illegally. Dirty and dangerous jobs like quarrying are more likely to be filled by imported labourers from Myanmar, Vietnam, Nepal or Bangladesh rather than by Malaysians.
There are plenty of limestone deposits underground in Malaysia. If the construction industry must have access to limestone then quarry the underground deposits instead and leave the hills alone. Of course it will be more costly but the cheapest option is not always the best one.