Ipoh and the Kinta Valley are in danger of losing its branding and outstanding universal value as a Tin-Mining UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Rampant demolitions of heritage structures and pre-war buildings over the years have raised the fear among the heritage community namely: Perak Heritage Society and the Kinta Heritage Group.
The community are saying that the “indiscriminate” removal of the old structures if not controlled would resulted in nothing left to show for the tin-mining heritage of the Kinta Valley.
Perak Heritage Chairman Mohd Taib has inquired whether there is a plan to initiate “legislation related to heritage conservation. If there is, what kind of enforcement is in place before property owners are allowed to demolish their buildings?”
Director of Kinta Heritage Group, Mr. Jek Yap, has similar sentiments. “A list of important heritage sites and buildings has already been established. Now clear and precise guidelines must be established before these ‘gems’ can be protected.”
Among the old structures demolished were two pre-war buildings in the city. One building at the junction of Jalan Theatre and Jalan Tahwil Azhar (Osbourne Street), and the other was off Jalan Sultan Iskandar (Hugh Low Street), in the New Town sector.
Another structure removed was a block of pre-war town houses along Jalan Chung On Siew. Boxed in between Jalan Chung Thye Phin, Jalan Ali Pitchay and Jalan Chua Cheng Bok this block was the set for an Ang Lee film, “Lust Caution” depicting a Shanghai scene.
Last portion of the Gopeng pipeline, located across the trunk road south of Gopeng Town, an icon of a glorious tin mining industry which had a global story behind it involving Asian and European participation, was also removed.
Although the company that originally purchased the entire pipe had given an assurance earlier that it would not remove the last portion of the pipe nevertheless it came down citing “reasons of safety for the public” as why it had to be removed.
The value of these pre-war structures like the Gopeng pipeline and pre-war buildings are actually legacies of administrators, Malay aristocrats, millionaires and workers who financed and built Ipoh city. Hence these old buildings contain immense historical significance and cultural value. Let’s not forget that Ipoh is the ‘City that Tin Built’.
It is apparent that the intention of all parties is to preserve our heritage. However without any guidelines or legislation, which only the state authorities can initiate and enforce, ‘heritage vandalism’ will continue to be rampant.
So let’s not forget that heritage statement, “Once Gone, It’s Gone Forever.”
More information about Ipoh’s heritage can be found at Perak Heritage Society’s website: http://perakheritage.wordpress.com as well as Ipoh World blog site: http://www.ipohworld.org/blog.