World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on February 2, commemorating the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Since 1997, the Ramsar Secretariat provides outreach materials to help raise public awareness about the importance and value of wetlands.
‘Wetlands for our Future: Sustainable Livelihoods’ is the theme for World Wetlands Day 2016. This theme is selected to demonstrate the vital role of wetlands for the future of humanity and specifically their relevance towards achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals.
In conjunction with World Wetlands Day, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight and provide an update on the issue of Kuala Sepetang Mangrove Forest that I had brought up to media attention last December 2015. After my open letter to Chief Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir, the Perak state government issued a stop-work order on the clearing of the part of mangrove forest pending an investigation.
I am relieved by the immediate response and look forward to the best solution on this matter. Last week, I was informed that the Larut Matang & Selama District Office was called to present the case chronology in the Exco meeting. I have yet to receive any official decision by the state, but I am hoping the Perak state government can make a public announcement soon and bring good news to the villagers, and to all Malaysians.
As we all know, fishing, rice farming, travel, tourism, and water provision all depend on wetlands. They also host a huge variety of life, protect our coastlines, provide natural sponges against river flooding, and store carbon dioxide to regulate climate change. Mangrove forests are one of our most important coastal ecosystems and wetland. The three major industries of Kuala Sepetang – fisheries, charcoal production and eco-tourism – all depend on the ecosystem of the mangrove forest. Any damage caused now will continue to affect us and our future generations not only environmentally but economically too.
While waiting the Perak state’s investigation report and decision on the Kuala Sepetang Mangrove Forest, my office with the assistance of Skyzoom have captured photos of the affected area of the mangrove forest. I hope these photos send a strong message to the government and all of us, on the importance and urgency of keeping our mangrove forest protected and safe.
The mangrove forest trees along Jalan Taiping-Kuala Sepetang offer a beautiful panorama and landscape as you enter Kuala Sepetang town, welcoming visitors with an iconic landmark. Any development or Kampung Tersusun plan will totally destroy this natural wonder of the historical fishing village.
To protect this treasure, the Kuala Sepetang community are in the process forming Sahabat Hutan Paya Bakau Kuala Sepetang with the help of Global Environment Centre (GEC). I call upon friends who are interested to come forward. Come join us to spread awareness about the importance of wetlands and mangrove forests.
Happy World Wetlands Day!
Chua Yee Ling
Perak State Assemblywoman for Kuala Sepetang