IF all goes well, regulations may be put in place to prevent “visual and skyline pollution” in the historical cities of Melaka and Penang.
This would protect their World Heritage status awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).
The move was vital as both historical cities continued to experience rapid development and booming tourism.
Deputy National Heritage Department director-general Mesran Mohd Yusop said plans were mooted last year to create a tertiary zone in Melaka city and George Town, bordering the Unesco heritage zones.
“The proposal was made because of developmental issues at the World Heritage Sites.
“With the tertiary zones, the height of buildings could be controlled in areas permitted for development to avoid leaving a visual impact on the Unesco sites.”
At the moment, local heritage experts are carrying out a study and gathering information on how best to create guidelines for the tertiary zone.
He added that the effort was a collaboration between the two state governments and local authorities as the Unesco recognition was jointly awarded to both states.
Mesran added that a proposal for the demarcation of tertiary zones fell under the purview of the local authorities, and in the case of Melaka, it would be under the Melaka Historic City Council (MBMB).
He said the proposed zones would also be included in the Conservation Management Plan (CMP) and Special Area Plan (SAP) of the World Heritage Sites, with the National Heritage Department playing the role as a watchdog to ensure that all conservation guidelines were adhered to at all times.
“The process is similar to the preparation of CMP and SAP submitted to Unesco previously.
“The proposals for the creation of the tertiary zones will be submitted to Unesco for its views and approval. This is to ensure that all developments near the World Heritage Sites can be better managed with specific guidelines.”
Mesran said the implementation of the guidelines at the tertiary zone would only be decided after approval by the State Planning Committees (SPCs) of Melaka and Penang.
The extent of the tertiary zones would also be decided after the study.
On July 7, 2008, Melaka and George Town were awarded the status of Unesco World Heritage Sites and recognised as “Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca” for having “Outstanding Universal Value”.
They represented exceptional examples of multicultural trading towns in East and Southeast Asia, forged from the mercantile and civilisation exchanges of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European cultures for almost 500 years.
Each had left their own imprints on the architecture and urban form, technology and monumental art.
Melaka and George Town are also living testimonies to the multicultural heritage and tradition of Asian and European influences, reflected by a great variety of religious buildings, ethnic quarters, languages, religious festivities, cultural performances, art, music, food and daily life.
With its government buildings, churches, squares and fortifications, Melaka was the centre of the early stages of history, beginning from the 15th century Malay sultanate, to the Portuguese and Dutch colonisation periods in the 16th and 17th century.
In Melaka City, the World Heritage Site comprised a 38.62ha core zone (15.7 per cent) and 134.03ha buffer zone (84.3 per cent).
There are two main areas at the core zone — the St Paul’s Hill Civic Zone situated east of Sungai Melaka, and residential and commercial zones on the river’s west.
There are 1,087 heritage buildings within the main heritage zone (core zone), and 1,984 heritage buildings in the buffer zone.
They comprise shophouses, religious buildings, administrative buildings, warehouses and residential properties.
Famous structures within the core zone include A Famosa (Porta De Santiago), Bastion House, ruins of St Paul’s Church on top of St Paul’s Hill, Christ Church, the Clock Tower, St Francis Xavier’s Church, Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, Kampung Kling Mosque, Kampung Hulu Mosque and Sri Poyyatha Vinayaga Moorthy Temple.
Attractions in the buffer zone include Kampung Jawa and Maritime Museum in Jalan Merdeka.
Structures outside the buffer zone with heritage significance include the Chinese War Memorial, Poh San Teng Temple and Rajah well (on the right entrance of the temple) in Bukit Cina, Chitty Village in Gajah Berang, traditional village of Kampung Morten, the Portuguese Settlement, St Peter’s Church and Tengkera Mosque.
Buffer zones serve to minimise negative and external effects of human activities in the core zone, while allowing some economic activities that are in line with conservation objectives to be carried out.
According to Melaka City Mayor Datuk Zainal Hussin, building owners in the core zone must follow guidelines in the CMP and SAP to preserve tangible and intangible heritage assets.
“Any additional work, renovation, new development and repairs on the heritage buildings must be approved by MBMB’s Melaka Heritage City Heritage Zone Development Implementation Executive Committee (Jawatankuasa Eksekutif Pelaksanaan Pembangunan Kawasan Warisan Bandaraya Melaka di peringkat MBMB).
“Action can be taken against owners under Section 72 of Street, Drainage and Uniform Building Act 1974 (for modification or waiver of by-laws) if they flout the guidelines,” he said.