An Unprotected Nature Park

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By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

Majlis Daerah Kampar has been entrusted with the care of the park but it has neither the means nor the resources to take charge. And since the area comes under the district office, it exercises control over the park.

Dubbed as the largest nature park in the country covering an area of over 900 hectares, the Kinta Nature Park south of Batu Gajah, may go the way of the ‘do-do’ bird if left to the elements. The park was front cover news in Ipoh Echo Issue 101 (July 16-31, 2010). The reason behind its eminence then was the state government’s delay in gazetting it as a nature park. Commercial activities such as sand-mining and fishing threatened wildlife that inhabits the wasteland.

According to the Malaysian Nature Society it has, since the cessation of tin-mining activities in the early 1980s, attracted over 130 species of birds. One of the islands, within the cluster of 14 disused mining ponds, is home to herons and is considered as the largest heronry in the country. Almost 60 per cent of the birds found here are either totally or partially protected under the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972.

And with such a large treasure trove of birds, fish, animals, plants and, perhaps, some other curiosities waiting to be tapped, not for its commercial value but rather its aesthetic and conservation considerations, I find it perplexing that the authorities are dragging their feet.

Granted that this former mining land, after much coaxing, has been gazetted a nature park by the state government last year, the irony is that protection is virtually non-existent. Poachers are free to roam the land. Sand-mining is still rampant, despite claims to the contrary by the district office, the authority overseeing the park.

The icing on the cake is illegal fishing. The abundance of freshwater fish in the numerous ponds dotting the landscape has turned the park into a haven for “inshore fishermen” who come in droves to do justice. It is an open season for fishing, one which, if left unchecked, will have a negative effect on the park, especially Tasek Pucung, the largest of the 14 ponds.

The Kinta Nature Park is Nature’s gift to Perakeans. While other natural formations such as limestone outcrops, caves and wetlands may have lost their lustre due to overexposure, this former mining land has still plenty to offer provided, of course, steps are taken to safeguard it from exploitation by opportunists who have little or no love for Nature, let alone their own backyards.

Dato’ Hamidah Osman, executive councillor for tourism, was the force behind the drive to get the park gazetted. Majlis Daerah Kampar, has been entrusted with the care of the park but it has neither the means nor the resources to take charge. Since the area comes under the district office, it exercises control over the park but manpower and financial constraints inhibit its capacity to act expeditiously and judiciously on intruders.

In spite of all these negativities, hopes are still alive. During a recent interview with Ipoh Echo, Dato’ Hamidah Osman, fresh from her successful forays to Merlimau and Kerdau, revealed that plans are underway to secure the park.

“I’ll get some funding for JKK Kampong Pisang to protect the park,” she said. Kampong Pisang is the closest settlement to the park and employing the villagers as vigilantes is an appropriate counter-measure considering the many limitations hounding the authorities. “A sum of RM20,000 will be allocated to the village action committee for this programme,” said Hamidah, mindful of the damage incurred so far.

My fear is that Hamidah’s RM20,000 may not be enough to douse the burning desire of humans, driven by greed, to plunder a defenceless park bequeathed by God to mankind.

10 thoughts on “An Unprotected Nature Park

  1. That’s the whole idea, Tan. Let’s share your society’s plan for Royal Belum. The campaign you mentioned should be announced to Perakeans so we all can chip in. I feel a concerted effort, as was taken by MNS and Kinta Heritage in getting the authorities to gazette the Kinta Nature Park last year, is desirous. Let’s use Ipoh Echo as a medium.

  2. Ipohite, MNS was recognized for getting Royal Belum gazetted and achievement received the prestigeous Merdeka Award. As you are aware, the Belum-Temengor forest complex is fragmented. To serve it’s ecology function, it needs to be managed as one entire complex, therefore MNS initiated Save Temengor Campaign with partners. There will be activities in Perak and certainly Perakian voices are needed. State revenue from forest and not significant and can conservation funds such as REDD Plus can compensate it easily. What difficult to break is revenue for the licensees! Do contact me in private @ tanct05@streamyx.com if you want more details or we can meet up if you

  3. Thanks, Tan for the invitation. We sure like to be members of your esteem society but will Perakeans and number make an impact? I feel being a little loud will have the desired result.

    A bit of history is in order. Efforts to conserve the California Redwoods from being lumbered prompted early conservationists to form the “Save the Redwood League” in 1918. However, the bill creating the National Redwood Park was only signed by the President in 1968. The League, along with other like-minded entities, purchased large track of redwood land to help in the conservation effort.

    If something like this is done may be the authorities will look our way. But this is well nigh impossible. No, not here in Bolehland. The word “boleh” is only meant for the politically connected. Moreover, who has that kind of money?

    One other way is to constantly badger the powers-that-be. Prick their conscience by exposing their evil deeds. Ipoh Echo is one good medium to voice our concerns and fears. Send letters and share the information you have – intimate or otherwise. Someone up there will read them soon enough.

  4. Ipohite, Desertbug and all nature lovers of Perak,

    If you are not already a member of MNS, suggest you lend your voice by joining MNS.

    MNS is current embarking on a Save Temengor Campaign and Perakians voices are much needed.

    I personally do not believe there are logging activities in Royal Belum, Not the entire Belum Forest Reserve is gazetted as State Park or Royal Belum. On the left and right of Grik-Jeli highway there is this infamous state land, it was excised from forest reserve in the 70s when the road was built. There were all kinds of “proposal” to “develop” this strip of state land and high intensity logging/clear felling is seen there. Below the state land on the south, there is this strip of virgin forest which was recently renamed as Banding Forest Reserve from Belum Forest Reserve. This is not part of Royal Belum and I suspect logging is taking place there. Ecologically, it is important to maintain forest continuity in the entire Belum-Temengor forest complex irrespective whether it is state land, State Park or Forest Reserve.

    Another potential threat the natural heritage of Perak is the Latex Timber Clone which is fast encroaching into Permanent Forest Reserve in this country. Forest Reserves are not excised but cleared for rubber tree plantation and retain the status as Permanent Forest Reserve!

    I have some maps to share, unfortunately I can’t be uploaded here. please email me if anyone interested.

  5. The richest logging area is in the Hulu Perak district. The majority part of Royal Belum is within this district. The Sultan and Menteri Besar have annual quotas of logging rights. Add the sum…

  6. TCT / Ipohite and all readers who want to do something – do your research about the “rape” of Belum and send to the echo. If there is enough evidence, then these crooks will have to pay the price.

    This can be done for almost anything where nature is illegitmately destroyed by greedy politicians abnd their cronies.

    A paper trail of anomalies within the system, dispatched to any international protection agency (not malaysian), will help put grievances on the international page for scrutiny. Perhaps then, maybe……….

  7. Tan you don’t have to go far. Take a ride along the East-West Highway and have a good look for yourself. Royal Belum is divided into two parts – Upper and Lower Belum. The highway is the demarcation line.

    Upper Belum is controlled, so they say. Access into Upper Belum is restricted, as the military still operates in the jungles. The present of army units in Upper Belum is purely to deter smuggling and the entry of illegals through the porous border. They are not there to stop logging, per se.

    Stop by the highway and look into the area north of the highway. You can spot tell-tale signs of logging activities – logging tracks, timber lorries and the works.

    MNS has raised this issue in the past but it has fallen on deaf ears. Nothing seems to concern the authorities. To them, is not about conservation but profits at the expense of Nature and the rakyat.

    So, where do we go from here?

  8. The richness of Kinta Nature Park was discovered by MNS more than a decade ago. Since then, members of MNS have been tirelessly working on seeking a “permanent” protection for the park. For the past decade, the management of the proclaimed but un-gazetted park was passing from District Office to Perhilitan and was at the verge of abandoned. There was never a single government agency that oversees the management of the park. The gazettement not only bring relief to nature lovers especially birdwatchers but justice to Science and Mother Nature. As mentioned by Lim Kim Chye, management of the park requires a wide spectrum of expertise which in my opinion, should be entrust to an organization with very focus objectives. Such organization must engage stakeholders in various disciplines to their Board Of Trustees and technical committee. It should also be planted in everyone head that there is no mega $$$ to be squeezed from the Park. Perak State Park Corporation fits the description and I hope they will be entrusted with the task. On the Kampung Pisang folks, they could well be the local community integrated into the plan. A well formulated management plan is urgently needed to mitigate further degradation to KNP. I hope the State Government will take heed from concern stakeholders and act righteously without any hidden agenda.

    On Ipohite’s claim that Royal Belum is logged under the guise of controlled logging, I wish he/she can reveal more information on the claim.

  9. Thanks for your comments, Lim Kim Chye.

    The Perak Park Corporation may have the expertise but whether it can perform is another question. It has yet to prove its worth thus far. Remember the collapsing building on Banding Island in the mid-2000s? What’s the outcome of the public inquiry convened by Tajol Rosli?

    Royal Belum is as porous as Kinta Nature Park. It too has been plundered and pillaged, not only by poachers but by the state under the guise of “controlled logging”. Logging rights are being issued to crony companies at will, and this is a fact.

    The problem is not about making the park(s)secured but of having the will to implement policies. Hamidah has simply too much in her hands. Her recent statement about allocating funds to secure the Kinta Nature Park through JKK Kg Pisang seems hollow, at best.

    I believe the “inshore fishermen” mentioned in the editorial are none other than the Kg Pisang villagers themselves. So it gonna be a case of thieves catching thieves episode. And they get paid for doing so. A good storyline for a P.Ramli movie, indeed.

  10. Dear Editor,

    Thank you for highlighting the dilemma faced by Kinta Nature Park in your editorial “An Unprotected Nature Park”. I am sure many Perakeans, myself included, who know about Kinta Nature Park, welcome the good news that, after more than 10 years of neglect, this scenic site has finally been gazetted, thanks to the strong lobbying by Dato’ Hamidah. There has been no announcement regarding the size of the gazetted park but hopefully the whole area of some 950 ha as suggested by Malaysian Nature Society is included.

    The next issue is the management of the park, including implementation of development plans, the day-to-day running of the park, enforcement and all the other tasks that come with taking control of a nature park. No disrespect to Maju Perak, Majlis Daerah Kampar or JKK Kg Pisang, but park management is specialised work and we all know these entities do not have the expertise needed. Perak already has the Perak State Parks Corporation to look after protected areas, such as Royal Belum State Park, so it makes sense to put Kinta Nature Park under this state body. The agencies mentioned, JKK Kg Pisang and other stakeholders can be invited to sit in the advisory committee for the park.

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