Friday, December 22, 2006

Penang Canopy Walkway - Update December 2006

I don't have to write more..... you be the judge.

How much tax do you pay? You are assured that your tax money are well spent in building this canopy walkway. Penang Boleh!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Green Turtle

In 1980, I was fortunate to be able to see 2 leatherbacks within a night at Rantau Abang, Trengganu. I remembered that among the exhibits at the interpretative centre were some of the things that can kill the turtles – plastic bags!

Plastic bags floating in the sea can be mistaken as jelly fish. Turtles can suffocate and will die when they mistakenly ate them.

On 18 Sept 2006, a green turtle was found stranded on the shores of Kampung Tepi Sungai in Kota Kuala Muda, Kedah. It appeared weak and had expelled two large plastic bags (The Star, 21 Sept, 2006).

Kuala Muda is actually not far south of Pulau Bunting (Pregnant Island – it looks like a pregnant maiden from afar) in the Yan district. The island is pristine and not many people will go there as it lacks amenities like road and fresh water. What is interesting about this island which is uninhabited has a 1.8 km long bridge connecting to the mainland.

The multi million bridge that serves no purpose is now a white elephant.

The scenic bridge built between 2002 and 2005 has created an alarming situation for the island and the strait. There were so many anglers along the stretch of 1.8km bridge. And anglers brought rubbish with them. During our last visit (Sept 2006), I saw rubbish being thrown along the bridge. I believe what I saw were only 1 % of the rubbish. The other 99% were already in the sea. Perhaps the two plastic bags that were thrown from the bridge had nearly drowned the green turtle…..if only the green turtle can talk.

Human : Hi green turtle what are you doing at this muddy beach (at Kuala Muda)?
Turtle : What? Do you think I like to come to muddy beach huh? I prefer sandy beach lah.
Human : So why are you here?
Turtle : I am sick and got blurry vision after eating two tasteless jelly fish.
Human : Padan muka (serve you right) why do you eat tasteless jelly fish?
Turtle : Common man, if I can think like you, I won’t be called an animal! I have been eating jelly fish for the last 50 years and food is now scared…. I ate whatever that look like jelly fish. There was pollution everywhere. Ten years ago I lost my brothers and sisters when a big tanker leaked black oil….
Human : BTW, where are you from?
Turtle : I stayed around Pulau Bunting, Pulau Songsong, Pulau Telur and Pulau Bidan. I am weak and have lost my orientation and being swept by the current. Where am I?
Human : Oh, you are 30km from Pulau Bunting.
Turtle : We used to have a lot of food around my home but since the beginning of 2002 when human started building the bridge, seaweed and jelly fish were getting lesser. You human have caused a lot of hardship to my marine friends. Who built this bridge?
Human : Oh, he was once our famous leader in Malaysia. Mmm….why do you want to know?
Turtle : Well, before I die, I wish one day he will reincarnate as a turtle living near Pulau Bunting. The bridge will be here for a long long time and I just want him to eat some of the plastic bags.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Meddling with Nature

I read with skepticism on the conditioning of tigers with lithium chloride added mutton (The Star, 5 Oct, 2006). Apparently the mutton injected with the salt caused irritant and the tigers threw up several hours later. The next day the tigers did not eat the fresh mutton although it wasn’t laced.
After that successful experiment, the professor in physics and philosophy from a University in Ohio will proceed to do the same with tigers in the wild in Malaysia. This time beef will be used. The story continues in a jungle somewhere in Malaysia….

Anak Tiger : Mama, mama why are you vomiting?
Mama Tiger : Don’t kacau kacau mama, I ate a piece of delicious and aromatic beef and I have been vomiting for the last hour.
Anak Tiger : Mama I am hungry. I want to eat.
Mama Tiger : No…food. Sorry baby, I couldn’t find any animal in the jungle. Our home had been logged and there were many “san tai wongs”(logging trucks) plying up and down the jungle. All our favorite food like wild boars, kancils and even monkeys were gone.
Anak Tiger : Where have they gone? Mama, ma…ma….(crying..)
Mama Tiger : Don’t cry baby, I have tried very hard to find food.... Many of the animals were hunted by poachers, logging workers and the illegal immigrant workers too.
Anak Tiger : Mama, I am hungry. Please go to the village and get the big buffalo for me!
Mama Tiger : What? You still want to eat the buffalo after I have vomited them. I am sick now baby.
Anak Tiger : What should I do mama? I am hungry.
Mama Tiger : Please don’t cry baby….. There are no more animal in the jungle, no more meat….. but only lousy tasting buffaloes and cattle in the village.
Anak Tiger : Mama I got an idea.
Mama Tiger : What is that?
Anak Tiger : The human take away our food source so I think it should be alright if we eat the human lor!!! Can ah?

And so the day will come when more tigers will be killing humans and more tigers will be killed. In the end, the tiger will pupus (extinct). And man shall live happily forever; your children and grand children will be free from man-eaters

Friday, September 29, 2006

Ecotourism - Are we on the right path?

How do you interpret the concept of ecotourism?

I came to the conclusion that ecotourism is actually a profitable business that cater for tourists who are supposedly there to protect the environment, aid the local community and educate themselves. BS!

So.....they said, to protect the environment and the local community, ecotourism products need to be developed. Infrastructures need to be built to increase the carrying capacity of tourists in those fragile areas.

I wrote to ecotourism organizations and interviewed Wildlife Department personnel on the excessive building of infrastructures with expensive wood.

These were some of the answers:-

Wildlife Department Personnel - "infrastructures were built so that they look natural and blend with the surrounding".

The object of development according to the concept of ecotourism as explained by the ranger was to ensure as far as possible a more "natural look", one that would be consistent with the natural surrounding. The colors and the materials used should be as natural as possible. It was on this interpretation that concrete signboards which were "maintaining free" were knocked down and replaced with wooden structures. These new wooden signboards had their timber sourced from other part of the jungle in Malaysia. Indirectly, this interpretation of "natural look" could affect the increase in demand for timber and thus increases logging activities and more destruction of ecosystem to another part of the jungle in Malaysia. It is ironical that the conservation of National Parks and Recreational areas has indirectly affected the degrading of other forest ecosystem in Malaysia.

Concrete walkway "camouflaged" with expensive wood. Is this necessary?

Some examples include the wooden jetty built over the original concrete one in a national park in Penang. Wooden steps built to Bukit Teresek in Kuala Tahan. Within a year, fallen trees, erosion and termites had destroyed many sections making it an eyesore. Quality woods were used and these were sourced from unsustainable sources. Steel cables for the hanging bridge at Penang National Park were coated with imported jute ropes that last only several months.

Concrete Signpost that can outlast human lifespan was
torn down and replaced with wooden one.

Why should natural materials that do not last be used or to camouflage the concrete or steel structures?

To get the answer, I emailed ecotourism organizations on the use of wood in building chalets and amenities for tourists but received only one reply. Below was the explanation.

Dear Forest Ang,
It is hard to offer any good advice from a big distance.

Here in Brazil, the focus is moving from ecotourism (which generally is confused with nature tourism) to sustainable tourism (because you then emphasize the importance of environmental, socio-cultural and economic sustainability).

There is no black & white answer to the problem you mentioned.

From the marketing (visitor satisfaction) point of view it is better to use natural looking materials. From the sustainability point of view it depends how the materials were sourced and what the overall sustainability impact of the material. Let me give an example :

- if I use wood from demolition, sustainable forest management or confiscated from illegal logging operations, I am basically recycling a natural material, which is better. In Brazil and I am sure in Malaysia as well, you can find termite and climate resistant timber and even if it rots it will then compost and thus be recycled again
- if I use concrete (or other manmade material), you should examine what the environmental impact of making concrete is (using lots of energy etc).

You can of course also use natural stones instead of timber. There are some good books available on interpretation and signposts with suggestion of materials etc.

Goof luck
(Name omitted)

I must admit there were some truths in the explanation given.

But why should we satisfy the ecotourists with natural looking materials? Wouldn't long lasting and maintenance free structures use less energy, less timber and less materials to replace?

If you confiscated timber then that timber should be used. But how often do you see confiscated timber in Malaysia? I hardly hear about it in Malaysia, except the controversial case of the custom vs an MP in Malacca some months in 2006.

Yes, cement & concrete need a lot of energy and could cause environment damage. But cement and concrete from a small limestone hill can sustain for many years. You just can't compare it with logging because logging is extensive and it destroys everything along its path - herbs, shrubs, animals, streams and ecosystem.

I agreed that wood does rot and termites do infest - these composts go back into nature as nutrient for the trees. Then again we have to cut more trees to replace the wooden structures - isn't this wastage of energy (fuel for transport, tools, etc). And we will continue cutting and damaging water catchments, rivers, fishes and wildlife. The conflicts of men and tigers and elephants were such problem created from the logging activities. If we have used less wood, we would not encroach on the tigers and elephants' territories. Rivers will not be polluted with silts. Fishermen would have better income. Terrapins and otters will not be affected. They are all related.

I have a friend who hung a framed rhinoceros beetle in his house. I told him that by framing a rhinoceros beetle, he was actually killing one of the rare beetles. And by doing so, that particular species could face extinction. He replied, "I only killed one. This will not affect the species. It is the logging - they practically wiped out the whole ecosystem in the jungle. Logging killed everything! You want to stop me then you should first stop the logging!"

I am dumbfolded. You?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Free Durians for Penang Monkeys

Have you seen a monkey opening the thorny durian? Apparently, monkeys in Penang are capable of doing that.

We do it again! Penang Boleh! It is only in Penang that monkeys are the luckiest lot that they are in the pipeline of getting to taste durian, langsat, rambutan, papaya, banana, mango, nangka, cempedak, sentul, petal and the many fruits available.

Our wildlife people in Penang is on an initiative to plant fruiting trees to provide free makan for the long-tailed macaques so that they do not cause conflict with man.

Man : Hi monkey why you always kacau-kacau (disturb) nice people in Penang?

Monkey : Alamak, didn’t you see, the durian, papaya, banana and the so many fruits planted by your wildlife people were supposed to be for us…but you see, you see, there.. your brother picking up the durians. He already curi (steal) my food lah. So I come to kacau-kacau again loh.

Man : But you are suppose to go and wait under the tree for the durians to fall and not to loiter around this taman!

Monkey : Hi wildlife cousin, you should understand lah, how can I open a durian with my bare hands? Look at my teeth…(monkey opened its mouth and pointing to a broken tooth)…this one was broken when I tried to bite open the durian. I also got so many wounds from the thorns on my lips. Susah cari makan…so I come to kacau-kacau to get free makan loh.

Man : Shh…not so loud. Actually I planted the fruits for my brothers and sisters. Since you are complaining that my brother curi your durians, I will get more fund to plant more durian trees, ok?

(Of course the monkey could do nothing as it has no voting power. Meanwhile the brothers and sisters will continue voting for the policy maker as they get to share free durians – who don’t want free punya meh?)

This is a typical Bolehland concept - solving the immediate problem but not the root of the issue. Our Boleh concept is truly practical and suitable for all kinds – people as well as for our hairy cousin the monkeys!

Why monkeys should be left alone in the jungle:-

1. By giving more food they will reproduce and over populate and will cause conflict when foods are lacking.

2. Monkeys are part of the ecosystem. They feed on insects, crabs, fruits and others – they are agents for distributing seeds and controlling the population of others in the food chain.

3. Without human intervention, monkeys will be able to survive on their own. Blame the human-monkeys conflict on ourselves – we feed them, we treat them as tourist attraction and when we have altered the monkeys’ dependent on our feedings, we blamed the monkeys for their aggressiveness.

Penang is a very caring state. We will please everybody – the farmers that cleared forests to plant crops (read Exit Plan) and now we are planting fruit trees (project expected to commence in Aug 06) to please the monkeys! Penang Boleh!

Friday, June 30, 2006

New "Exit Plan"

Have you heard of this new "Exit Plan"?

The problem of water filling up the Air Itam Dam in Penang has been a critical issue since the past years. In the newspaper (The Star 26 June 06) it was reported that farmers cleared forest area around Bukit Penara. The story begins...

The story

Long long time ago, there was an island called the Boleh Island. Its moto was Boleh Land Leads. And sure enough, this Boleh Land did lead in everything she did.
There were farmers who chopped down trees, cleared up forests to plant their crops. Some planted vegetables and some planted fruits, while many planted flowers. Prices of flowers shot up due to the demand created by entrepreneurs on our materialistics' need. They popularized the Valentine, Fathers' day, Mothers' Day, Teachers' Day, and many many other days (just to mention a few).

Being an island, naturally lands were limited. The farmers started to plant their crops on hill slopes. The hill slopes did not encroach on water catchment areas and so the water authority called Pihak Boleh Air (PBA) just couldn't bother about it. But they kept mentioning about water rationing, reduced water level of the dam and even highlighted about leaking pipes. Up on the hill slopes, crops needed to be watered. So the water needed to water the crops were piped from water sources far from the farm. Water channeled from these water sources were actually within the water catchment area. And so, the dam's level kept reducing and the citizen of the Boleh Island were sometime left dry with occasional rationing. The rakyat kept wandering why raining season just couldn't top up the dam. "Damned it", they said.

The land encroached by the farmers were Forest Reserves' area. The Forest Try Department did not take any action. Then came the rainy season. The farms being cultivated on hill slopes did succumbed to landslide. The Forest Try stepped in. They wanted to be nice. Yes, they were nice people. They did not take any punitive action - "maklum lah we are the caring society"
the Forest Try officer added. Then came the State Jalan-Jalan Development and Environment Committee kepala of Boleh Land called YB Tango Charlie Yankee declared that the state of Boleh Land will offer FREE seeds to the farmers to plant back the cultivated land within the next 5-10 years with forest trees. They called it the Exit Plan. Wondered why they don't punish, why taxpayers have to pay for the seeds, why only after 5-10 years to phase out their commercial planting? Well, according to the council member, "That was the reason why we called Boleh Land"! "We leads, don't you see", he added.

1. Many pipes can be seen diverting water from the head streams of Air Itam Dam to farms below Bukit Penara.
2. Rampant land clearing of Forest Reserves and on hill slopes were seen all over Penang Island.
3. Water level of Air Itam Dam has never be filled to the rim for the last few years.





Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Billions Wasted

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was the only sensible PM. He said, "Due to poor maintenance of buildings and amenities, we have to allocate big sums of money for repairs" (STAR 20 Feb 2006). And that big sums of money were partly mine - I paid my tax, yunno!

Sad. Beautiful chalets at Sg Tukun, Penang National Park were left to rot. Since the Forestry Department handed the Pantai Acheh Forest Reserve to the National Park's authority in April 2003, these chalets were being neglected. Apparently, too much money to spend on building new infrastructure and new buildings but NOTHING on maintenance. Billions Wasted - how true!

Then we had the first canopy walk in Penang. State government spent so much but did not maintenance it. Excuses, excuses....kononnya termites sudah sapu!! Who don't know that anything built of wood will be infested with termites? Do you believe this crab? Why built it and let it rot? The second picture could be the real reason for the excuse!
Billions wasted - how true!

Abandoned Canopy Walk at Penang Hill

Invasion of privacy = Poor Planning!!

Our Penang's heritage - the Ferry is something that all Penangites cherish! But look at one (in 2003) that was partially submerged in the Prai river. To write off as scrap iron? (Is this the reason?) Billions Wasted - how true!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

What? Only RM10K fine?

They did it again! I read with dismay the STAR's headline (25 Jan 06), “Good… and Bad”. In Malaysia, if you know how to pull the string, you can do it again and again without serious repercussion! This time a logging contractor's RM10,000 deposit will be forfeited and the company blacklisted. Period. Nothing more than that.

I am sure there were many trees being logged beside this tualang tree. The timber from the huge tualang tree easily fetch more than RM10,000. Our tualang tree is the largest tree in South East Asia. This huge tree can easily be a tourist attraction and it can be constant revenue for the locals. The income will never be ending and it will be many times more than RM10,000! Foreign tourists always admire our huge trees and with the added bee hives, this tree will be an instant ecotourism product!

The bees that helped pollinate the orchards and jungle produces will be affected too. Imagine the enormous amount of livelihood that will be affected. Orang asli and kampung folks will have their incomes reduced – because there are fewer bees to pollinate their fruit trees.

The huge profit from the timber is only a fraction of the fine! After that, the contractor can form a new company and start all over again. There will be more of these illegal logging in Malaysia if there is no stringent law on it. Isn't it time to give the contractor mandatory jail and whipping before our natural heritages are destroyed by greedy contractors?