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There's benefit in them mangroves: December 29, 2018

THE recent tsunami in Banten, Indonesia reminded us of the tsunami that happened exactly 14 years ago on Dec 26, which had devastated many countries bordering the Indian Ocean. Many villages on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, too, were badly affected, and most of the survivors are still being haunted by vivid memories of that catastrophic event. 

The 2004 catastrophe in one way drove home the lesson that Malaysia was not entirely safe from geological disasters. More importantly, the killer waves also taught us the importance of mangroves as they have been proven to blunt the destructive force of tsunamis. Realising this, Malaysia embarked on a mission to rehabilitate mangrove and coastal forests throughout the country’s coastlines. A special annual budget has been continuously allocated for this mission and many rehabilitated areas along the coasts have seen much improvement since the launch of the programme in 2005.

The issue is, however, not only about the success of the rehabilitation programme but also the legal protection and sustainability of the existing and the rehabilitated mangrove habitats. Sadly, mangrove forests in Malaysia are not totally protected. Although large areas of mangrove forests are gazetted as forest reserves under the management and enforcement of the Forestry Department, some other significant and sizeable areas are still categorised as state lands and privately owned lands. These unprotected areas are all earmarked for various development plans. Herein lies the Malaysian challenge.

Mangrove forests are a subject of a number of international treaties: the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation conservation programmes such as the World Heritage Convention, Man and Biosphere and Global Geoparks Network. Malaysia, too, is committed to these global treaties.

Being one of the most prominent tropical coastal wetlands, many mangrove forests around the globe are designated as Ramsar sites under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance or better known as the Ramsar Convention. The convention was adopted in the city of Ramsar in Iran in 1971. It came into force for Malaysia in 1995 after the designation of Tasek Bera in Pahang, a freshwater lake ecosystem, as our first Ramsar site in 1994.

To date, Malaysia has designated seven Ramsar sites. The other six Ramsar sites are mangrove forest habitats of different types: Pulau Kukup in Johor (overwash mangroves), Tanjung Piai in Johor (fringe mangroves), Sungai Pulai in Johor (riverine mangroves), Kuching Wetlands National Park in Sarawak (riverine mangroves), Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands in Sabah (riverine mangroves), and Kota Kinabalu Wetland in Sabah (basin mangroves). Ramsar Convention recognises the international importance of all types of natural wetlands on the terrestrial and marine zones. It also recognises the importance of constructed wetlands, in which 795 sites around the world have made the list.

All in all, the ultimate aim of the convention is to promote the conservation of wetland habitats. Ramsar sites in Malaysia are being conserved through different models and approaches, and managed by different authorities and agencies as land is a matter within the state jurisdiction. Recently, Pulau Kukup was in the news as to its status as a national park. Regardless of the land status, the fragile mangrove island of Pulau Kukup must be protected and equipped with a robust conservation plan incorporating all relevant policies and laws. The status of Pulau Kukup as a Ramsar site should remain as this is in actual fact a global brand name to attract and promote sustainable tourism for Johor and Malaysia.

It is best for all parties to agree and work collaboratively to protect the pristine mangrove island of Pulau Kukup as it is a precious ecosystem shared by local and global communities. The oxygen they release and the carbon they sequester are just some of the key roles that the mangroves of Pulau Kukup play.

In addition, Pulau Kukup is recognised as one of the most important key biodiversity areas, especially as a habitat for at least 35 species of mangrove plants, and home to myriads of fauna, particularly as an important stopover for migratory birds. This is on top of its role in coastal protection and stabilisation, and in reducing the risks from hydrological and meteorological hazards and disasters.

While Malaysia’s goal to become a developed nation must be welcomed, it must not be achieved at the expense of our rich biodiversity. And this includes our mangrove forests.

We must save them. Only then, will they save us from the wrath of the natural forces?

The writer is a senior lecturer/research fellow of Institute for Environment and Development and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia coordinator of The Malaysian Mangrove Research Alliance and Network (MyMangrove)

Source: NST

Ministry sets RM500m sales target for craft products - December 20, 2018

JOHOR BARU: The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry has set a sales target of RM500 million for craft products for next year. It’s minister, Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi, said as of Nov 30, the total sales volume of Malaysian craft products stood at RM465 million and involved a craft community of 19,376 people.

“For next year, we have set a target of RM500 million,” he said after opening the Johor Craft Festival 2018 at the Angsana Johor Baru Mall today.“We are confident of achieving the target as we plan to start selling Malaysian craft products through our Tourism Malaysia offices overseas next year.”There are 37 Tourism Malaysia offices globally, including in Japan, the United Kingdom, France, China, Australia and Indonesia.“We will also take part in international exhibitions to promote our craft products, including in Berlin, Paris and Hong Kong.”

Mohamaddin said that in an effort to develop the human resources for the local craft industry, Kraftangan Malaysia would implement the Malaysian Skills Certificate programme, which would be conducted by the National Craft Institute.“The institute’s branches in Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang will conduct courses in the fields of batik, metal works and woodworks.

“This will increase the number of skilled workers in the crafts industry,” said Mohamaddin.He said the festival was an opportunity for craft entrepreneurs and producers to sell their products.“I hope the public will take advantage of the school holidays to come to the festival to see and buy craft products from the different states.”Kraftangan Malaysia has set a target of 100,000 visitors and a sales target of RM6 million for the festival, which is on until Dec 30.

#JOM GO: Clean-up dive at Tioman : November 23, 2018

To mark the third International Year of the Reef, Zulkifly Ab Latif joins in one of three International Coastal Clean-Up Day events in the country IT is a long walk from the chalet I’m staying to the dive centre. Slanting rays of morning sunlight pierce the clouds, illuminating the mist-capped mountains of the tropical island.

The lush green jungle looks as impenetrable as it was the day before when I arrived. The white sandy beach takes on the hue of the golden morning sun as I walk along it while the waves gently lap against the shore. Looking out at the calm ocean, I can almost picture my friend gathered across the country, getting ready, as I am, for a similar goal.  I know that there are friends now gathered near Desaru in Johor, ready to clean up the beaches. I also know that there are friends from Johor Marine Park, ready to scour the reefs of Pulau Sibu, Johor for trash and other marine debris. I know this because I’ve had to turn down the invitations to be here on Tioman Island in Pahang. Even so, there is consolation knowing that despite not being there with them, we are all connected to the same goal, to celebrate the third International Year of the Reef.

Introduced in 1997 in response to the increasing threats on coral reefs and associated ecosystems such as mangroves and seagrasses around the world, the global partnership is known as International Coral Reef Initiative designated 2018 the third International Year of the Reef. Celebrated globally, various government agencies, NGOS, tourism establishments and communities in Malaysia have also embraced the effort resulting in a plethora of events and programme aimed at creating environmental change and awareness throughout the year.

BEACH CLEAN-UP

The year has seen various events held in support of International Year of the Reef 2018. One such event is International CoastalClean-Up Day, which is the reason I am visiting the beautiful island of Tioman. Hosted by Berjaya Tioman Resort, International Coastal Clean-Up Day 2018 is a three-day event involving 200 participants eager to contribute to the effort to conserve the majestic underwater reefs of the island. I am at the resort’s dive centre, which is managed by the dive operator UDive Malaysia. It is the first day of the event and the centre is abuzz with activity. Scuba tanks clang against each other as they are arranged after being filled with air, with divers intently checking their scuba diving equipment in preparation for the day’s dive. It is here that I meet Alvin Chelliah, a project manager for Reef Check Malaysia, a non-profit organisation concerned with protecting coral reefs.

The long-term programme called Cintai Tioman (Love Tioman) on the island, established by Alvin, aims to help reduce the impact of human activities on coral reefs around the island while also empowering the local communities in managing and conserving the island’s resources, Alvin now lives on the island, working along with local workers and volunteers. Although fresh from another tiring clean-up programme mere days a go involving the island’s local community, Alvin is enthusiastic as he briefs me on the itinerary. Opting to sit out the first dive of the day, I join Alvin and other non-diver participants for a beach clean-up nearby in Tekek.

VILLAGE OF TEKEK

With the even mainly centred on Berjaya Tioman Resort, the beach clean-up is also a perfect chance to take in the sights near the village of Tekek. Although still referred as a kampung (village), Tekek is now more like a small town, the heartbeat of Tioman.  Here visitors will find the island’s only airport as well as a police station, other government offices, schools, a government clinic as well as duty-free shops. The only available road at Tioman is also in Tekek, that ends near Berjaya Tioman Beach Resort. Tekek is also the gateway to Kampung Juara, a small village on the opposite side of the island. Visitors normally hire waiting off-road vehicles in Tekek to ferry them to Juara, while the more adventurous can opt to trek there across the island’s jungle as well.

Walking along the beach with the other participants, we comb the area for non biodegradable items such as plastic bags and bottles. The clean-up may seem like a mere attempt to improve the beach’s aesthetic appeal but according to Alvin it is more than that. Reef Check Malaysia aims to collect as much data as possible on the amount and types of trash on the coastlines so that it can provide concrete evidence to lobby for change in the nation’s recycling and waste management practices. Reef Check Malaysia hopes that all this effort will ultimately result in the prevention of trash entering the waterways and cease the need for further coastal cleanups.

Hearing Alvin’s explanations while picking up carelessly discarded beer cans lodged between the coastal rocks, I realise it is a monumental task, not because of the amount of trash but because of the dire need to change people’s habits and behaviours. But through initiatives such as International Year of the Reef and International Coastal Clean-Up Day as well as programnes such as Cintai Tioman providing awareness and motivation, there is hope for environmental behavioural change. 

BECOMING A SEA-WARDEN

With the day’s clean-up done,I visit Rumah Hijau in Tekek, a community and recycling centre that upcycles waste into new products such as keychains and souvenirs. Run by local surfing enthusiast Hisham Uyub, the centre has a laid-back surfer vibe to it, complete with volunteers casually strumming on guitars as they take a break from their tasks. Along for the visit is Moe Faisal, a representative of Rip Curl Malaysia, which one of the sponsors for International Coastal Clean-Up Day 2018. An established brand in the surfing world, Rip Curl Malaysia is doing its part by producing limited-edition T-shirts in partnership with Reef Check Malaysia for the 2018 International Coastal Clean-up programme. Aptly named the Sea Warden T-shirt, RM15 will be contributed to Reef Check Malaysia for every one sold. Seeing such an established brand commit time and resources to conservation efforts is commendable, and I wholeheartedly hope that more companies will follow in Rip Curl Malaysia’s steps. 

LEAVE ONLY BUBBLES

With over 25 dive spots and pristine reefs protected under Marine Park status, Tioman Island is one of the nation’s often visited island for snorkelling and scuba diving activities. It’s no surprise then that I find myself on board a dive boat with other diver participants heading towards Tulai Island, a small uninhabited island located off the north-eastern coast of Tioman, for an underwater clean-up dive. It is on the boat that I meet Azura Zainal, a multitalented celebrity, radio and TV presenter. Known as an adventurous spirit thanks to her stint on the local travel and adventure television programme Xplorasi, Azura is among a group of celebrities and public figures who stepped forward in support of the International Coastal Clean-up programme as well as the International Year of the Reef 2018 initiative.

The dive boat stops at Teluk Gador, a small and secluded cove that is one of the dive spots around Tulai Island. I buddy up with Azura as we ascend to the ocean’s depths with other divers of the group. Led by Akira of Udive, the group swims past and above coral covered rocks, looking for nonbiodegradable waste and other items that do not belong on the reef.  Underwater clean-ups are not merely about collecting every piece of trash one sees, it also involves ensuring the act of removing waste items does not cause further damage to the reefs and marine environment.Swimming at depths ranging from eight to 15 metres, the dive at Teluk Gador takes 25 minutes to complete. I feel almost disappointed when the dive leader hand signals forasafety stop, since the underwater visibility is quite exceptional, making it extremely easy to spot colourful nudibranchs, spotted stingrays and small crustaceans hidden between the reefs.

TRAVEL WITH PURPOSE

Travelling for festivals and cultural events is a common practice, since it is a wonderful excuse to explore and discover destinations. The International Coastal Clean-up Day event is in a similar vein, as it also lets participants explore different facets of Tioman’s beauty.

Although environmental education and awareness will always take centre stage and be the main priority in any conservation programme, participants cannot help but take in the beauty thatthey are helping to protect. This observation is gleaned as he boat takes me back towards Berjaya Tioman Resort after the dive. Looking at the island from out at sea, Tioman is indeed an enchanting and spectacular place to visit. Steeped in history dating back to the 11th century, with a rugged terrain dominated by majestic granite peaks and white sandy beaches washed by warm crystal clear waters, Tioman is an ecological and marine haven that is far too important to be left unprotected and unappreciated.

TRAVEL FILE

INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE REEF

PLASTIC is a major source of marine pollution. Throughout the three-day International Year of the Reef 2018, a staggering 1,807 plastic bottles, 1,315 plastic bottle caps and 206 straws and stirrers were collected at various places around Tioman Island. International Year of the Reef 2018 and International Coastal Clean-Up Day were observed throughout the nation’s marine parks, islands and public beaches. To get involved, visit www.iyor2018.org

Reef Check Malaysia is a non-profit organisation that engages with local communities to raise awareness of the importance of, and threats to, coral reefs. To get involved or contribute to the cause, visit www.reefcheck.org.my

'Appoint a special representative to oversee the needs and requirements of Cherating' : November 25, 2018

KUANTAN: Appointing a special representative to oversee the needs and requirements of Kampung Cherating Lama will help to ensure the problems faced are swiftly addressed and solved.Tanjung Inn Resort co-partner Tunku Datuk Seri Kamel Tunku Rijaludin said a special representative could help convey the grouses of chalet operators and industry players to the relevant agencies for proper action.“The representative can help with efforts to set up an action committee responsible for coordinating activities. The ultimate aim is to help uplift the tourism industry in Cherating.

“A website with all information on chalets, resorts, room rates and attractions should be created so that visitors here will be equipped with information,” he said, adding that a photography competition in Cherating could draw interest from the people to visit the beach. He said the government could promote Pahang-based arts and culture including joget Pahang, weaving, keris making and the preparation of mouth-watering traditional dilicacies. “For example, in Thailand there are opportunities for tourists to join cooking classes where one can cook local traditional dishes with the assistance from the locals before joining them for a meal later. This will provide added value to the existing activities.

Pic by NSTP/FARIZUL HAFIZ AWANG

“Besides the sandy beaches and monsoon surfing activities, there are not many other attractions here which can help revive the beach. Cherating offers a lot of opportunities and efforts must be made to revive it. He also proposed that the state government introduced a law where the landowners in Cherating have to be responsible for maintaining the respective plots including trimming the grass and sprucing up the area. “If they fail to cut the grass, they will have to pay the local municipal council to get the job done. This will teach them to become more responsible for their respective plots and always keep the place clean. Idle land can be turned into parking lots or used for agriculture,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bruno Pieraerts from Belgium said Cherating has huge potential. The 34-year-old who is making his first trip to Cherating said he saw it on travel guidebook “Lonely Planet” and there were many positive reviews of the beach.

“However, I am a little surprised that there is no proper public transport to come here and I was forced to use Grab services from the main bus terminal. Since most of the eatery outlets are closed, there is hardly anywhere to eat. “The fireflies here are popular even in Europe....they were shown on certain documentaries. Since we prefer quiet surroundings, my wife and I are enjoying our trip but if there were more activities then I am sure this place can attract more people,” he said.

Record collection of handmade bags : November 22, 2018

SUBANG JAYA: The 4K (family, career, health, and community) Women Empowerment programme has made its way into the Malaysia Book of Records for the collection and display of 8,509 handmade bags. The custom-made bags with various sewing techniques and fabrics were done by 896 tailors nationwide from Persatuan Seni Jahitan Kreatif Malaysia (PSJKM) and are being exhibited at the handmade market, at the Sewing World Gallery, Sky Park @ One City here, from Nov 22 until 25. PSJKM chairman Fully Chye Goet Lee said the 4K programme was aimed at encouraging its members to come up with creative ideas to produce handmade products.

"Carrying the theme “Masih ada yang sayang”, it provides a platform for women entrepreneurs to start their business with their own products,”she added.  Chye said the programme is held in collaboration with Epal Handicraft Training Centre, with the support of the International Trade and Industry Ministry, Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, Communications and Multimedia Ministry, and Women, Family and Community Development Ministry. “We are also cooperating with the respective agencies to provide 30 buses to bring visitors to the exhibition centre. The Sewing World Gallery will be made part of the tourist attraction,” she added.

Chye expects at least 1,200 visitors to come to the exhibition and handmade market, which was launched by PSJKM patron Tengku Puan Pahang Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah on Thursday. Meanwhile, some 200 women entrepreneurs are showcasing their products at the handmade market, or Tunku Azizah Handmade Market, over the four-day event. Tunku Azizah said the programme could help empower women, especially from the B40 category to sell handmade products.

“As they also have the responsibility of taking care of the family, this initiative offers a great opportunity to earn an income for those who are skillful with their hands, such as sewing, which is also a passion of mine." The Tunku Azizah handmade market offers handicraft such as handmade quilted bags, custom-made jewellery and batik products. The exhibition and market are open from 10 are to 7 pm until Sunday.

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