Thursday, March 19, 2009

Belum-Temengor Rain Forests

I always have that ecstatic feeling whenever I am in the natural rain forests. This love for nature has been inculcated early, being born and raised on the idyllic island of Langkawi and subsequently joining the many trips as a scout camping in the forests. In my 10 years in Sabah I trekked in many of its parks and forests - Kinabalu Park, the Crocker Range, Danum Valley, Maliau Basin, Long Pasia. I had this chance again to be in the forest when I was in the surrounding of the Belum-Temengor on March 13 and 14, 2009. It was to attend the meeting of the Pulau Banding Foundation.

2. I departed from Kuala Lumpur on the Friday 13 afternoon heading to the Pulau Banding Resort, driving north to Ipoh and Kuala Kangsar on the North-South Highway and at Kuala Kangsar, taking the Grik route to Pulau Banding, a total driving time of around four hours.

3. The participants at the meeting were accommodated at the Belum Rainforest Resort, which is located on Pulau Banding, an island in the Temengor Lake. The shareholders of the Resort promotes it, appropriately, as the gateway to nature - the rich natural heritage in Belum-Temengor Rain Forests (BTRF).

4. BTRF extends over an area of 300 000 ha reported to be 130 million years old. Driven by its conservation objective, the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)embarked on two scientific expeditions, the first covering a period of 1993 and 1994 and the second in 1998 with the purpose of inventorising its biodiversity-the fauna and flora and the many different ecosystems. It is truly rich in biodiversity. It is reported to contain 44 species of mammals with a sizeable population of elephants, tapirs, sun bears and tigers. Seventy-one species of birds are found here and what is amazing is that it has the world's largest seasonal congregation of hornbills with all the 10 Malaysian species. On the flora side, the species numbers are high for mosses, flowering plants, wild fruits an ginger. It also carries the Rafflesia species. Its water fishes are known for snakehead (haruan and toman)and kelah.

5. With this wealth of biodiversity in BTRF and realising the rapid deforestation in many forested areas in the country, MNS pushed for its gazettement. It was not easy. Belum Forest was subsequently gazetted as the Royal Belum in 2003. MNS's contribution to the conservation of Royal Belum was recognised with the inaugural award of the Merdeka Award in the category of ENVIRONMENT.

6. But Temengor and the Grik Forest Reserves remain outside the gazettement area. This is not too satisfactory to the NGO as these two forests are integral components of the wildlife and plant habitats in the Complex. MNS is campaigning for the inclusion of both forests to be conserved.

7. The concern for the sustainable management of BTRF initially led to the establshment of an advisory panel with representatives from Govt departments such as FRIM, universities, state government, NGO and the private sector, which at its deliberations, formulated a Charter known as Pulau Banding Charter and proposed the establishment of the Pulau Banding Foundation (PBF). The Charter sets the framework and guidelines for the sustainable development of BTRF and PBF is the its catalyst and operational arm.

8. PBF received its intial seed fund from Emkay Founadtion which went to the establishment of the Reasearch Centre and the recruitment of skeletal staff to man and administer it. The meeting of the PBF Board that was held on Saturday March 14 was devoted, among others, to discuss the expedition of an Integrated Management Plan for BTRF.

9. At the meeting members of the Board were introduced to Dayang Norfaezah who has agreed to serve as the celebrity ambassador to PBF. Whilst welcoming her and familiarising her with the objectives of PBF and the conservation efforts of BTRF, the Board feels that her presence will enable the message of conservation and protection of the rainforests to reach the young generations.

10. The post-meeting activity was the visit to Sg. Enam, a 30 minute express boat trip from the Resort. We were at the location at around 3.00 pm and the reception we received was a melodious sound of crickets. It was so soothing and an undescibeable beautiful feeling of one's commune with nature. It is this feeling that pushes me to be in the forest natural surrounding again and again.

11. It is at Sg. Enam that an adventure facility with a few chalets and camping areas are being constructed. The chalets are designed on the orang asli environment friendly use of materials and simple need and constructed on higher side on both sides Sg. Enam. The River area has also been chosen as, its clear and rippling flow of water would be conducive for the breeding and multiplication of 'ikan kelah' which, with land clearing and overfishing, has depleted the numbers of kelah and other fishes, which were in abundance in the waters BT a few years back. The project of rehabilitating kelah in BTFR is being spearheaded by Prof. Mashhor of USM Penang.

12. It is so nice to be back to nature.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tree Planting at Bukit Kiara

The tree planting event at Bukit Kiara was jointly organised by the National Landscape Dept, office of the KL City Mayor and the Institute of Landscape Architects with the cooperation of Friends of Bukit Kiara, TTDI Resident Association and YAWA in the effort to conserve the area as a green lung. The Event was held on Sunday February 15, 2009. It is part of the National Tree-Planting Campaign initiated in 1997 by YAbhg Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad with the aim of inculcating awareness amongst the communities on conserving our trees and forests that is so critical in reducing global warming.

2. The Bukit Kiara is quite rich in its fauna and flora and is a popular recreational destination among the residents around the area. Its undulating topography offers a challenge to both bikers and trekkers. During week-ends and public holidays the place is thronged with joggers and bikers.

3. The Event was officiated by YAB Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the PM accompanied by YABhg Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah, Chairperson of the Malaysian Landscape Advisory Panel. Among the dignataries include a Minister, the Federal Secretary, officials of the City, corporate leaders, representatives of NGOs and residents. In his speech, among other things, he was heartened to see a good turnout on a Sunday morning and encouraged tree planting to be undertaken. He advocated the conservation and protection of more green lungs within urban areas and added that 'it is our responsibilty to sustain and care about our natural heritage, not only as our nation's pride, but most importantly for future generations to come. The effort which has been carried out nationwide to green our country by planting trees aand our national flower - the Bunga Raya, with a ssystematic plan, shows our commitment and initiative towards enriching our natural heritage'.

4. Among the organisations that have staunchly been involved with the National Tree-Planting Campaign are the Malaysian Nature Society. The Society was represented at the Event by its President, Dr. Salleh Mohd Nor and the two VPs, Dr. Hashim A. Wahab and Jeffrey Phang.

5. The National Tree-Panting Campaign encourages private citizens and corporations to participate and contribute in the program by contributing RM 60 a tree that goes for the cost of the seedling, handling and maintenance for three years. Each contributor to the Campaign will receive a commemorative inscription with his name tied on the tree and this will be registered.

6. The tree planting program at Bukit Kiara Forest is symbolic of the serious effort on the part of the Govt to conserve the area as the KL Green Lung (KLGL). The remaining KLGL areas are at Bukit Tunku, Bukit Persekutuan, Bukit Gasing, Bukit Sg. Puteh and the parks and there is considerable pressure to develop these areas. However, the total green lung areas in Kuala Lumpur is inadequate for healthy, comfortable and happy living. It has been reported that the appropriate green area to population ratio for urban living is 2 ha: 1 000 citizens. For KL it is 0.6 ha and, according to plan, the population density will increase further. Regular flash floods and traffic congestion are common. With so much of land in the other states, do we need to continue permitting development and population growth in KL and Klang Valley?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Agenda for a Sustainable Malaysia

I particioated in the Workshop on 'Melayu & Gejala Rasuah' held on March 12, 2009 organised by Kumpulan Melayu Serdang & YAB Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad (TDM)at Perdana Leadership Foundation.

2. The Workshop was a follow-up of two earlier dialogues made up of a smaller group of representatives largely composed of ex-students of UPM, with TDM who were concerned of the political, economic and social scenario of the country arising from weak political leadership and the widespread and pervasive corruption. Dialogue 1 was held on October 14, 2008 at 86th Floor of Petronas Twin Towers and Dialogue 2 was on November 3, 2008 at Perdana Leadership Foundation.

3. The Workshop was held with the objective of identifying issues related to the practice of CORRUPTION in the country and formulate strategies and plan of actions that will be forwarded to Malay leaders in the Government for appropriate action.

4. The Workshop was participated by around 50 individuals who represent a wider spectrum of background - corporate leaders & businessmen, lecturers at universities, professionals, politicians and a few wellknown bloggers - Ahiruddin and A. Kadir Yassin.

5. The Workshop was divided into four discussion groups - Group A covered Education, Economy & Socio-culture which was led by Dr. Mohd Nor Ismail; Group B focussed on National Unity & Racial Integration chaired by Dr. Kamaruddin Kachar; Group C discussed Sustainable Development and Agriculture chaired by me; and Group D covered Malay Leadership and Thinking led by Syed Barkat Syed Ali.

6. A summary of the discussion papers are as follows:
6.1 Politic and Corruption - Corruption is defined as to give or receive money
or in kind to solicit favour for self gain. The cash and non-cash
payments are for the purpose of, among them, getting projects, to expedite
approval, to get land or residential units, to seek aquittal from
legal proceedings, to get elected in party positions, to get
promotions, to get awards, to be able to get appointments with
leaders of influence. In a political party, money has been passed
around among Branch and Divisional leaders as they need fund
to finance the maintenance of their offices and related costs
such as refreshments, entertainment.

6.2 National Unity and Integration - National unity and integrity is
critical in a multiracial society in Malaysia. Efforts to bring
this about have to start from primary schools right to the
universities. In a society such as ours, economic,educational
disparity can bring dissatisfaction and to forge unity can be
difficult, furthermore when political parties exist on the basis
of religion. Strategies for national unity and integration at the
racial, school, uniiversity and national levels have identified.
A strategy to enhance the thinking capability of the Malays has also

6.3 Agenda for a Sustainable Malaysia - in this paper of mine, global warming
caused by excessive emission of gases, is identified as the most critical
challenge facing mankind. It is contributed by high population causing depletion of non-renewable resources, pollution of the
ecosystems and accummulaation of wastes. It is important
that Malaysia formulates an Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Corruption has contributed to indiscriminate deforetation, loss of
biodiversity, pollution of the terrestrial and marine ecosystems and a
great threat to Sustainable Development.
Different strategies to meet the various goals of Sustainable Development.

a. Manage Population Growth and Physical Development
Strategies include family planning, population distribution from
high to population areas, promote development of small towns and rural

b. Restore, Conserve and Protect Biodiversity
Among the strategies are establishment of nature and
marine parks, sustainable forest management, tree plan-
ting, conserve heritage tree, establish natural history
museums and botanical gardens in each state and biosafety.

c. Food and Fibre Security
Farming systems, organic farming, soil amelioration
and conservation, integrated pest management and wastes
management are among the strategies listed

d. Sutainable Business & Economic
Strategies include low pollution economy, trade practices, CSR, carbon
emission trading scheme, parks and wildlife sanctuaries
as ecotourism destinations and sustainable harvesting of forest
products for pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries

e. Develop Clean Power and Energy Efficient Technologies
Among the strategies are improve public transport system, look at
alternative energy sources, research into energy efficient technologies

f. Promote Social Equity and Social Spirituality
Strategies include developing location specific curricula, encourage
people to be more active and lead a healthier life

g. Restore and Improve Clean Ecosystems
Ban the development of mangrove and steep hill areas, manage wastes and
strict enforcement of laws on banning the use of chemicals and bombs
in harvessting of marine fishes are among the straategies proposed

6.4 Education and Malay Thinking
Conflicting views on national issues that cover politic, religion, language,
constitution, legal and the Royalty institution have divided the Malays.
Corruption is pervasive - corruption of the mind, corruption of the systems,
corruption of the people and society. The root causes are many - low mental
quality, love for material world, weakness in moral and character, non-
creative mind, egoistic and arrogant, lack of enforcement.

7. Among the resolutions that were adopted are to reduce and eradicate corruption by rejecting corrupt leaders, include a curriculum in schools on corruption, the internalisation of the Islamic teachings that forbid corruption among its ummah.