Relocate urban swift farms to rural areas, eco-parks

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Swift farms should be located away from residential housing in areas where proper systems are in place for effluent disposal and control of outbreak of disease, says Rebecca Duckett.

Local newspapers have reported on 13 July that the new guidelines for the bird’s nest industry are in place. (NST, Prime news, Pg 11 and Sin Chew Daily, Pg 4). This is very disappointing to note mainly because there has not been any public discussion prior to these being passed. None of the residents or stakeholders in George Town were granted access to a report that will affect their future. This is unacceptable.

It is now up to the Penang State Government and MPPP to decide what has priority. The health and safety of the families living in the inner city or a group of swift farmers who do not live with their families in the Unesco World Heritage Site that is George Town. The State and MPPP also have to decide the long-term future of investments made by stakeholders attracted by the real potential of the vibrant heritage, culture and people of George Town.

These swiftlet farming guidelines are under the direct control of The Veterinary Department of the Ministry of Agriculture under the Chairmanship of Dr Fadzilah A’ini Abdul Kadir. It would be extremely wise for the Penang State Government and MPPP to state now that Dr Fadzilah and the Veterinary Department are personally responsible for any consequences from the outbreak of disease, loss of life or negative environmental impact that may arise from any part of the guidelines.

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The working report – Malaysian Standard- Good Animal Husbandry Practice – Edible-Birdsnest Swiftlet Ranching And Its Premises – states that the “Premises of these birds shall be located at least 10 metres from any fully residential buildings. The operation of heritage buildings for these swiftlets ranching should be subjected to conditions by relevant authorities”.

First and foremost, the definition of ‘fully residential’ has to be made clear. Does this include hotels, offices, restaurants etc? There is a clear list of diseases that the report states that these birds may carry. Ten metres or 30 feet is not a great distance and in effect means that any urban swift farms with neighbours have to move. It should also mean that if a previously unoccupied or empty building next to an urban swift farm becomes occupied, then the urban swift farm should be forced to move.

Urban swift farms have to removed to rural areas or into legalised swiftlet eco parks where proper systems are in place for effluent disposal, outbreak of disease and away from a residential population. In rural areas swiftlet farming has huge potential to improve the lives of the rural poor with well managed schemes for swift farming.

In line with the recent report card sent out to the public by Pejabat Setiausaha Kerajaan-Pakatan Rakyat, People-Centric Government, the tagline of “Competency, Accountability, Transparency” has to be practised when dealing with the problem of Urban Swiftlet Farming. With the State’s emphasis on environment, cleanliness, protecting, preserving and promoting George Town as a Unesco World Heritage Site (“by restricting the building height to 18 metres”) it is hoped that the same determination and focus is used to clear the skies over George Town, return peace to the mornings and evenings and ensure the health and safety of the people.

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Rebecca Duckett-Wilkinson
Council Member
Penang Heritage Trust
13 July 2010

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