MSCP Speaker Series: Community Integration in World Heritage Sites and Drivers of Wetland Use

Join us for the second MSCP Scholar Speaker Series. 12:30pm -2:00pm, lunch will be served. Topics of presentation and discussion will include:

Dr. Rasha Sayed
Promoting Local Community Integration in World Heritage Site Planning: George Town, Penang, Malaysia
George Town, Penang is a Malaysian city founded 200 years ago, in response to trade and cultural interaction between the East and the West. The fabric of this city reflects the influences of immigration between Asia and Europe. This led to the emergence of a multicultural identity represented by both tangible and intangible forms of cultural heritage. Today, everyday life in this city reflects its layered historical past. George Town was occupied by Britain until the end of the 18th century; the city still reflects religious pluralism in its street networks and architecture. When UNESCO inscribed the city as a World Heritage site on July 7th, 2008, the primary objective was to promote Penang as a cultural heritage tourism city that would draw visitors from around the world.

Touristic World Heritage UNESCO designation creates problems to local stakeholders: land prices rise, rents increase, maintenance demands on infrastructure escalate, and environmental protection becomes more difficult. Some residents benefit from all these changes; others are forced out of their long-time homes. Many current residents and landowners question whether UNESCO designation is preserving the cultural heritage of the places it was designed to protect. Touristic activities could threaten heritage values; at the same time, the level of stakeholders’ involvement in tourism development planning was lower than the expectations per local society needs.

This research will discuss how local stakeholders and landowners are involved in tourism planning in George Town World Heritage sites: are they satisfied with the way in which the original objective of cultural heritage protection meets their needs and objectives? How have touristic activities (since designation) affected the lives of residents in and around the protected areas? Has designation helped or hurt long-time residents (particularly those who are linked to the culture that designation was aimed at protecting)? Finally, what are the economic, social, and architectural burdens that residents in and near UNESCO sites have had to manage? In retrospect, what might have been done to make things easier for them?

Dr. Felix Olorunfemi
The Drive and Drivers of Wetlands Use in Temerloh District of Pahang, Malaysia
Malaysia is facing the critical problem of rapid decline of its wetlands, with implications for the country’s economy, society, and environment. The issues examined in this study are: what institutions, information, technical resources, funding sources, and/or policy incentives turn out to be most important in decision-making about the use of local wetlands? Using Temerloh in the Malaysian state of Pahang as a case study, qualitative research tools (including focus group discussions and key-informant interviews) were used to source for data. In addition, secondary data and 34 semi-structured household questionnaires were used to complement information obtained from interviews and project/community visits. Findings revealed that major factors determining the use of wetlands in Temerloh District include private ownership of lands, which allows the owner to convert it to the preferable use. Another factor is the status of land. In this case, most wetlands are tagged as abandoned or wastelands. Other considerations are economic, which includes issues of tax on used and unused lands, availability of funds and availability of developers. Lastly and importantly, government and Government-Linked Companies and cooperatives play active roles in wetland use, driven by the need for community development and improved livelihoods. In conclusion, economic considerations and improved rural livelihoods override the need for conservation of these wetlands. Policy issues lie in striking the right balance between improved livelihoods, development of the local economy and conserving the local wetlands.