Wednesday, 1 July 2009

George Town's heritage zone

How much of George Town lies within the boundary of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage zone?

Several days ago, this story broke in the New Straits Times, bringing about some new speculation and worries about our UNESCO listing. Will the new MACC building fall foul of the stringent requirements of the world body that George Town's heritage area should not have new buildings that are taller than five storeys?

Was it an act of malicious mischief? Did the writer check further before writing the story? A check with this map from UNESCO would have cleared up the matter. It shows the extent of George Town's heritage zone. Both the Core and Buffer zones are clearly delineated and it looks to me that the MACC building is to the west of the buffer zone. I think there isn't any new controversy in the making! Not yet, anyway...

This is how I would see the boundary of the Core zone (darker orange): from the north, wall separating the St Xavier's Institution school field from the Convent Light Street, Love Lane, Carnarvon Street, Claimant Place, Kampung Kolam, Carnarvon Street, Carnarvon Lane, Toh Aka Lane, Malay Street and Malay Street Ghaut. It's a curiosity that this border cuts across some houses in the Carnarvon Lane/Malay Street vicinity. For the Buffer zone (lighter orange), the boundary is along Transfer Road, Burmah Road, Penang Road, Prangin Road, Prangin Road Ghaut and along the old canal to the sea.

Incidentally, today marks the start of the UNESCO Celebration Month in Penang. It's the first anniversary of George Town's listing as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. I hear there'll be cultural shows at the Esplanade this evening and also on 7 July 2009. Lots of other activities too, including some differently conceived dragon boat races and chingay performances.

The Penang Island Municipal Council will roll out what they term as their heritage passport. This is basically a passport-sized souvenir booklet (the sneak picture here is courtesy of Timothy Tye of the Penang Heritage Trust) and it will feature 25 historical buildings within George Town's heritage zone. Visitors to these sites can get these heritage passports stamped to indicate that they've been there. Pretty good idea to promote our heritage tourism.

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