GEORGE TOWN: Not many people know there is a mesmerising cascading waterfall at the Penang Botanic Gardens.
Located behind a reservoir, the 100m waterfall previously provided water supply to the people in George Town and was a prohibited area for decades as it is located in a water catchment area.
But plans are now underway for it to be a public attraction, with some describing it as a “hidden gem”.
Consumer activist Datuk Seri Anwar Fazal said the waterfall “appeared to be trapped in a prison” as there is limited access to it, adding that it was among attractions in Penang during the British era.
He said colonial artists used to draw or paint the waterfall and another attraction, a huge tree in Relau, and displayed the artworks on ships and other places to highlight the beauty of Penang.
The Penang Botanic Gardens Department said it has plans to build an observation tower for the public to view the waterfall, with its director Nur Syazwani Ismail saying the proposal has been included in a special plan.
“There is no decision yet. We will wait for the proposed Penang Hill cable car project in the vicinity to be completed before making any decision,” she said, adding that she was willing to have discussions with hikers who are keen to open a public access trail.
A coalition called Hikers Roundtable, which comprises 25 hiking groups, is planning to hold discussions with stakeholders, including the department and the Penang Water Supply Corporation.
Its coordinator Tony Leng said permission would be sought for a sustainable trail to be created for the public to view the waterfall from a distance, as the public would not be allowed into the site since it is a sensitive water catchment area.
Photographer David S.T. Loh said on Facebook the area used to be one of the most famous waterfalls in the country, but it was unfortunately no longer open to the public.
“Today, not many people know about it. We should be proud of our beautiful waterfall instead of pretending that it exists only in old colonial paintings,” he said, adding that Thaipusam was first celebrated in the country in 1782 at a Lord Murugan shrine built next to the waterfall.