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Archives 2013

Some items from the press relating to caves

Contents :

Niah Caves quarry
Batu Caves Thaipusam & cable car
Gua Kanthan blasting by Lafarge & Liphistius kanthan
Buda & Mulu parks extended
Batu Caves condo
Wind Cave, Bau, flooding
Geoparks - Bau & Kinta Valley
Perak tin mining on the increase
Mulu to be smoke free BY 2017
Visitors to Lenggong Valley & gallery
Lenggong visitor centre design competition
Merapoh area - new fauna & flora discoveries and possible destruction
Batu Caves won't/will be World Heritage site
Batu Caves dress code
Batu Caves, Damai Cave rock climbing
Limestone hills of Ipoh inc Kanthan
Bring home Perak Man
Batu Caves development, & removing bats
Mulu Caves project 2013
Merapoh cement plant project cancelled
Gua Raya, Skuduk-Chupak Recreational Park, Sarawak - writing on rocks

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Quarry news

The year started badly with new that the world famous caves at Niah are under threat. This report was in the Borneo Post on 1 Jan 2013.

Alarm over quarrying at Niah caves

MIRI: Members of the public have raised concern over quarrying activities at the Niah caves hills which could destroy the archeological jewel of the state.
DAP Senadin chairperson, Lim Su Kien called on the relevant authorities to clarify the destruction of parts of the caves system by the quarry companies.
Lim said she received a tip-off from members of the public and wanted clarifications as it is of public interest.
“The affected area could not be seen from the main road, but instead one has to go far inside the cave to see it.
“From the photos, I believe some parts have been destroyed for commercial use,” she said when met by reporters during a press conference at DAP Senadin’s office here yesterday.
The Niah Caves are open to public but there are some areas which are protected and could not be entered by unauthorised person.
“Who knows if somebody is trespassing to the area? We do not know, hence we ask for authorities to check for us if the story is true,” she added.
She also urged authorities to take stern actions if the extraction of limestone there was illegal.

Borneo Post article on the quarrying in Malay.

Later in the year, this reported was published in NST on 28 June.

'Stop the destruction of Niah Cave'

KUCHING: Sarawak's famous prehistoric site, Niah Cave, and its surrounding areas, are under threat.
This is because limestone quarry construction works are being carried out in the south of its main attraction, Niah Great Cave.
The Great Cave is located in a large limestone block, about 1km long and about half-a-km wide, that is detached from the main Mount Subis complex by a valley, which is 150m to 200m wide.
Because of its rich historical significance, the National Park was created to protect the Great Cave.
However, zoologist Dr Christopher M. Stimpson said while the establishment of the park was commendable, it was a small area in the vast jungle.
"The imestone quarry will encroach into the area and make the park smaller than before," said Stimpson, who is with McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge.
Stimpson did his doctorate on Niah Great Cave from 2006 to 2010, and is now back for further research.
He is working with archaeologists from Sarawak Museum.
Stimpson urged the local government to stop the further destruction of the place.
"The Niah Great Cave is biologically, archeologically and historically rich. It is important not only to the country but to the world."
The cave's historical significance rose with the discovery of human remains, dating back 40,000 years, making it the oldest recorded human settlement in East Malaysia. It also houses rock paintings dating back 1,200 years.
Stimpson, who is conducting an avian zoo archaeology seminar on Niah avian remains, said they discovered that the Niah Great Cave was home to a huge number of birds.
He added that his team had found 164 bones of non-cave birds of which the hawk species was dominant.
The others comprised of owls and eagles.
Five hundred bones of cave birds were also found, with the majority being three swiftlets species -- white belly,black nest and mossy nest swiftlets.
Stimpson's studies also show that the birds were not part of the prehistoric settlers' food chain. Their skeletal remains indicated no burn or cut marks.

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Batu Caves Thaipusam

Thaipusam is 27 January 2013. This year there will be fireworks at Batu Caves. This is a report from The Star on 26 Jan :

15-minute fireworks set to light up Batu Caves
Fireworks are set to light up the skies of Batu Caves at midnight as 1.6 million people are expected to gather at the temple com­plex to celebrate Thaipusam.
The 15-minute fireworks display will be one of the highlights of the celebration this weekend.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, MIC president Datuk Seri G. Palanivel and other dignitaries are expected to be at the temple grounds at 10pm.
Temple committee information chief B. Vivekananda said they expected more people this year due to the long weekend.
“We usually have an average of 1.5 million visitors but this year’s turnout is estimated to be at 1.6 million,” he said.
The silver chariot carrying the sta­tue of Lord Muruga made its annual 15km journey, leaving the Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Jalan Bandar at 12.30am and will arrive in Batu Caves at 2.30pm today.
Vivekananda said some 150,000 devotees would follow the procession and thousands more would line the route holding trays of offerings and smashing coconuts along its path.
Sri Maha Mariamman Devasatha­nam committee chairman Datuk R. Nadarajah advised devotees and visitors to refrain from wearing too much jewellery and to secure their belongings.
He also said an information and com­p­laints counter would be open­ed near the temple entrance.

A piece on the Batu Caves train, from Bernama 27 Jan -



KTMB attempts 90-hour non-stop service record for Thaipusam

Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMTB) is attempting to operate its commuter service to Batu Caves for 90 hours non-stop, in conjunction with Thaipusam, in order to enter the Malaysia Book of Records.
KTMB general manager Mohd Hider Yusoff said the four-day three-night commuter service on all routes started operating non-stop from Jan 25 with 200 drivers in three daily shifts.
"To fulfill the Malaysia Book of Records, the service from Port Klang, Rawang and Sungai Gadut to and fro Batu Caves should operate smoothly," he told Bernama at Batu Caves, here Sunday.
Each return journey will be recorded from last Friday until tomorrow as the closed circuit television recordings were crucial to fulfill the conditions, he said.
Mohd Hider added that 500,000 passengers had traveled on the service for the past three days, and the number was expected to increase on the last day of the Thaipusam celebrations tomorrow.



Batu Caves cable car

The idea of a cable car at Batu Caves is brought up every year (see archives 2011, 2012). On 11 Jan the NST reported that the project would be ready by 2014 :

Batu Caves cable cars ready by 2014
The project has received final go-ahead from Selayang Municipal Council. THE Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam temple committee has received the final go-ahead from the Selayang Municipal Council to have cable cars at Batu Caves.
The project, which was initially planned to be completed in time for this year's Thaipusam festival, had faced delays as the developer needed to get the approval of several agencies.
Temple committee chairman Datuk R. Nadarajah said they had submitted all the forms and were issued a letter of approval dated Dec 31 last year.
"After about one-and-a-half years, we have received the letter of approval to build the cable cars. We expect the project to be completed before Thaipusam next year."
He said the cable car project was planned for the benefit of the elderly and disabled who were unable to climb the temple's 272-step staircase.

Then on 24 Jan it was announced that the controversial condo project at Batu Caves had been scrapped and also the plans for the cable car have been put on hold. See report in The Star.

NST 13 June 2013 report MPS hits brakes on cable-car project. A report in The Star on 26 July, Temple urged to submit building plans for the rest of Batu Caves structures, says there is a stop-work order for the cable car project in Batu Caves.
A report on 27 July suggests that the project has already started -

EXCLUSIVE: MPS takes action against Batu Caves temple management for defying stop-work order
Story and photo by VINCENT TAN

ENFORCEMENT officers have sealed off the Batu Caves cable-car project site after the Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) was tipped off on the construction work that had resumed.
The Batu Caves temple management was also slapped with two compounds totalling RM26,000.
The officers were recalled from their holiday yesterday to take the immediate action after the management defied the stop-work order issued by MPS on June 6.
StarMetro was tipped off by sources that sub-soil piling works had been carried out on Thursday evening, and a check yesterday morning revealed that the piledriver was still at the cable-car site.
According to the same sources, the piledriver had been operating for about two weeks.
“There are no specific work times. Sometimes, the piling starts in the morning and can go on past 4pm,” said the source.
When contacted, MPS president Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain said the council had not withdrawn the stop-work order nor issued a new notice allowing work to continue at the site.
“There should be no work done once we issued the June notice.
“If the council had agreed to let work continue, we would have sent a new notice,” said Mohd Azizi yesterday.
“If the management continues to do piling work, we may have to seize the equipment and machinery,” he added.
State executive councillor for Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment Elizabeth Wong expressed concern over the latest development.
“The temple must follow the rules, especially pertaining to Environment Department (DOE) guidelines. Public safety is our priority,” said Wong in an SMS to StarMetro.
Earlier this week during the council’s board meeting, Mohd Azizi said existing structures in the temple complex needed to be legalised first before the cable-car project could continue. However, only 50% of the documents required had been submitted.
In the operation yesterday, the team led by MPS Building Department director Azam Mohamad and Enforcement officer Paramasivam Chelliah sealed off the piledriver with yellow tape.
Paramasivam explained that MPS had issued the two compounds under the Streets, Drainage and Building Act 1974.
While there were no ugly scenes, a couple of men carrying walkie-talkies and earlier seen observing the MPS personnel at work, approached the council officers to ask why they were sealing off the site and the piling machine. They also asked the council to allow them to remove the machinery.
They were denied the request.
“If they want to resume work on the cable-car project, the temple committee will need to send in all their supporting documents for the existing structures,” said Paramasivam.
The development order for the cable-car project was approved by MPS in late 2011 but a stop-work order was issued later to compel the temple management to submit their documents to legalise the other built structures on the premises.
It is learnt that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is also taking an interest in the issue.
PPP national information chief Datuk A. Chandrakumanan said the party would be holding a press conference on Monday with Malaysia Hindu Sangam.

The cable car was again mentioned in The Star 27 Sept 2013, saying that an EIA should be done before the stop-work order on the cable car is lifted.

The NST had a similar report on 29 July, op-work order on cable car stays.

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Gua Kanthan & Liphistius kanthan

I received emails in April 2013 to say that quarrying would start on 1 June at the Gua Kanthan part of Gunung Kanthan in Perak. The information turned out to be false. However the Sun and Malay Mail published letters from the Chairman of the Malaysian Nature Society Perak Branch. Malay Mail -

Stop Kanthan Cave rock blasting

Thursday, April 18, 2013
LAFARGE cement factory recently held a meeting with all the people around Kanthan Cave to evict the premises.
They will start blasting the Kanthan Cave area by June 1.
Kanthan Cave is a very important cave to be preserved as a natural heritage of Kinta Valley, the reason are as follow:
The Trapdoor Spider (Liphistius Kanthan) can only found in Kanthan Cave since 367 millions years ago.
Circular column . like fossils of Carboniferous crinoids, of feather-star or sea lilies, are found a the base of the hill, which is at least 300 millions years old.
"Paraboea Vulpina", Kanthan Cave is the only place where can find this rare and endangered species can be found.
Barassodendron Machadonis, a rare palm, can only be found at Kanthan Hill.
We hope you can support our conservation effort for preserving Kantan Cave, by help us to highlight this issue to the public and the authorities.
Lee P.K.

A letter in The Sun 19 April, Conserve ecologically sensitive cave.

In May 2012 it was reported that Ipoh City Council was hoping to gazette Gunung Kanthan under the Ipoh Local Draft Plan 2020. This could be too late for the hill and the cave.
See more on Liphistius kanthan.

In early July, Liphistius kanthan was added to the IUCN Red List under the status 'critically endangered".

I wrote to the press and 3 letters were published :

The Sun Daily

Save the Kanthan spider now

Posted on 4 July 2013

I REFER to "Save Kanthan Cave" (Letters, April 17). Gua Kanthan is located in Gunung Kanthan, Perak. This limestone cave is in danger of being quarried by Lafarge Malaysia Berhad.

Many parts of the hill are already being quarried and now there is a threat to the area of the hill with the cave.

Gua Kanthan is a spectacular river cave, nicknamed "The Cathedral" due to its large size. It is also home to an endemic trapdoor spider which is found nowhere else in the world.

Liphistius kanthan has now been listed as critically endangered on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List. Critically Endangered is highest risk category assigned by the IUCN Red List for wild species. The next level is Extinct.

Liphistius kanthan is also included on the Malaysian Wildlife Conservation Bill (2012 amendment) as a protected species. Thus, all the Malaysian Liphistius are protected.

Let's hope that Lafarge is aware of this and will preserve the cave.

According to its website: "As a Group, we are committed to protecting in four main fronts: stop climate change; preservation of biodiversity; conservation of natural resources; and to develop innovative approaches that promote a better respect for the environment."

Liz Price

Kuala Lumpur

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NST

04 July 2013

QUARRYING: Gua Kanthan spider endangered

In April, the media published news about saving Gua Kanthan, which is in Gunung Kanthan, Perak.

This limestone cave is in danger of being quarried by Lafarge Malaysia Bhd.

Many parts of the hill are being quarried and now, there is a threat to the area of the hill that contains Gua Kanthan.

On May 5 last year, NST published an article, "Ipoh council to protect limestone hills", and Gunung Kanthan was one of the hills mentioned.

Gua Kanthan is a spectacular river cave, nicknamed "The Cathedral" because of its large size.

It is also home to an endemic trapdoor spider found nowhere else in the world.

This spider, Liphistius kanthan, has now been listed as critically endangered on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List.

Critically endangered is the highest level of danger for living creatures. The next level is extinct.

Liphistius kanthan is also included in the Malaysian Wildlife Conservation Bill (2012 amendment) as a protected species.

In fact, all the Malaysian Liphistius are protected, as well as their habitats.

Let us hope that the company quarrying the area is aware of this and will preserve the cave.

According to its website, it said: "As a group, we are committed to protecting in four main fronts: stop climate change; preservation of biodiversity; conservation of natural resources; and to develop innovative approaches that promote a better respect for the environment."

Let us hold them to that.

Liz Price, Kuala Lumpur

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The Star (which was the most censored/edited!!!)

Save endangered Gua Kanthan trapdoor spider

Published: Thursday July 4, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM

IN April there were media reports about “saving” Gua Kanthan in Perak.

Several parts of a limestone hill near Gua Kanthan are used as a quarry and now there are concerns that the area within the cave would be added to the existing quarry site.

Gua Kanthan is a spectacular river cave, nicknamed “The Cathedral” due to its large size.

It is also home to an endemic trapdoor spider which is found nowhere else in the world.

This spider, Liphistius kanthan, has now been listed as critically endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.

Critically endangered is the highest level of danger for living creatures. The next level is extinct.

Liphistius kanthan is also included in the Malaysian Wildlife Conservation Bill (2012 Amendment) as a protected species. In fact, all Malaysian Liphistius are protected.

We hope the quarry company at Gua Kanthan is aware about the rare trapdoor spider and will preserve the cave.

LIZ PRICE

Kuala Lumpur

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I also had a piece published in Ipoh Echo 170.

Let's hope Lafarge take note that the spider is critically endangered and is a protected species.

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In July Mongabay did a report on Kanthan.

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Lafarge expansion at Kanthan

NST Business Times 2 Sept had an article "Lafarge embarks on massive expansion plan"......... "On cement, we will be expanding capacity at the Rawang block in Selangor and Kanthan block in Perak. This will further increase capacity in the two plants with combined 1.2 million tonnes."

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NST 7 Sept Protection programme for Gua Kanthan. This article says "preliminary studies by University Malaya's Institute of Biological Sciences, which had indicated that the cave could contain sensitive biodiversity, including a critically-endangered endemic trapdoor spider."... something we have known for decades!

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The Star, 7 Sept 2013, 'Do not wipe out Gunung Kanthan' reports on groups urging Lafarge not to quarry the hill.

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The Star, 14 Sept 2013, 'Mountain must be quarried first'. According to Lafarge the hill must be quarried before they start on the underground limestone.

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Batu Caves condo

In 2012 there was a lot in the media about a proposed condo at Batu Caves. This news resurfaced in Feb 2013.

This piece was in the Star, taken from Bernama.

Published: Friday February 8, 2013
Updated: Wednesday April 17, 2013

Dolomite hopes Selangor will reconsider Batu Caves condo project

Dolomite Corp Bhd, the developer of the controversial Batu Caves Dolomite Park Avenue Condominium project, has appealed to the Selangor government to review its decision to cancel the project.

It said to date, no cancellation notice has been served to the developer.

Managing Director Lew Choong Keong said the company was disappointed with the state government for cancelling the development order for the project without any prior notice or consultation with the developer.

"We are disappointed with the decision of the Mentri Besar to cancel the project based on reasons of safety and environmental protection.

"Since the announcement by the Selangor Mentri Besar on the cancellation of the development order granted for this project, which we only got to know through media reports, the Selayang Municipal Council has yet to issue a written cancellation order to the developer thus causing us to be in a limbo.

"Sadly, two attempts by us to meet the Mentri Besar to present our in-depth research and findings, before the announcement of the decision, was not entertained," he told a press conference on Friday.

The luxury 29-storey Dolomite Park Avenue condominium project turned controversial as it is neighbouring the Batu Caves temple, which is a religious focal point of Hindus.

The project, with a gross development value of RM248mil, also drew criticism from many quarters on the negative impact of the development could have on the Batu Caves temple and the world's tallest Lord Murugan statue which is located at the foot of the hill.

Lew said due to delays and the recent development order cancellation, about 100 buyers have cancelled their purchases, from an initial sales of 293 units, within the first month of the project's launch.

He said about 100 buyers, meanwhile, have signed their sales and purchase agreement (SPA), in the hopes that the issue would be rectified.

At the briefing, independent engineering consulting company, G&P Geotechnics Sdn Bhd, classified the case as a "no harm" project.

Its Managing director, Dr Gue See Sew, said piling and basement construction works in the project would have negligible impact, where no specific mitigation measure was required.

"The developer is also well aware of these issues as such they were only engaging machines that do not vibrate for jobs like drilling and so forth.

"This will never cause harm to the Lord Murugan statue which is 138 metres away from the boundary of the project and to the Batu Caves temple, which is 170 metres away," he added. - Bernama

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Flooding of Wind Cave at Bau

A piece in the Borneo Post on 6 March about the problems of flooding at Wind Cave at Bau, Sarawak. SFC: Difficult to resolve flooding of reserve. And an earlier piece from 19 Feb on flooding in Wind Cave (in Malay).

Wind Cave was flooded again at the end of the year, Borneo Post 31 Dec.

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Geoparks

It seems that Geoparks are the 'in thing' this year. Langkawi was listed as a Geopark in 2007. Now other states are jumping on the bandwagon. In 2010 Sarawak hoped to have Malaysia's second geopark.

Bau, Sarawak Geopark

This first report is from Sarawak, from The Star 16 Apr -

GE13: Everyone wants Mas Gading and it’s not hard to see why

KUCHING: A drive into Bau town can be quite a serene experience.
One could easily describe it as placid on most days despite it being just some 35km away from the city.
Apparently, everyone wants Mas Gading and it’s not hard to see why. The area holds much cultural and economic potential.
With the limestone formation and mountainous landscape, the parliamentary constituency is home to some of Sarawak’s greatest natural wonders.
Wind Cave and Fairy Cave are ideal rock climbing and spelunking spots for the active and adventurous while the network of rivers enveloped by lush greenery serves as the perfect retreat for some kayaking and hashing. The area also has pristine waterfalls, some of which remains the best kept secret of the locals there.
In realising this, the state through Minerals and Geoscience Department, is working on gazetting the area as part of the Sarawak Delta Global Geopark, which is to become Malaysia’s second geopark if approved.
The area is also rich in legends, folklore and true legacy and it is said that each village has a story to tell.

Kinta Valley Geopark

There is a proposal to set up a Geopark in the Kinta Valley, Perak.

NST report 9 June , read here.

The Star 11 June 2013

Negative impact on geopark

By MANJIT KAUR
manjit@thestar.com.my

QUARRY activities within the proposed Kinta Valley Geopark must be reduced if the state government wants the area to gain Unesco Heritage site status, said an academician.
Prof Dr Mohd Shafeea Leman from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Science and Technology faculty, said quarry activities could cause the identity of the landscape to disappear and suggested that it be stopped.
He added that it would be very difficult to justify to Unesco on why the quarries were established at the limestone hills.
“Quarries have a lot of negative environmental impact and it is not good if there are plans to create a geopark where such activities exist.
“Since the quarries have already been operating for a long time in the area, the only other measure is to assure Unesco that concrete efforts to slow down or stop some of these activities would be taken,” Dr Mohd Shafeea told reporters after delivering his keynote address titled Proposed Kinta Valley Geopark — Utilising Geological Resources for Environmental Quality Improvement and Society Well Being Enhancement at the National Geoscience Conference 2013 at a hotel in Ipoh recently.
“But it will be best not to establish any new quarry if we are interested to bring the proposed geopark to Unesco,” he said.
Dr Mohd Shafeea, who is also the Malaysian Geological Heritage Group chief, explained that apart from limestone hills, a geopark also included the residents and heritage sites in the proposed area.
There are about 60 quarries operating in the state and it is learnt there were over 10 quarries at the proposed geopark site itself, near Simpang Pulai.
Last year the State Minerals and Geoscience Department had presented a paper proposing to turn 16 limestone hills into geopark sites.
Despite being agreed verbally to establish the geopark, which would be similar to the one in Langkawi, the final decision would be made when the matter is brought to the state executive council.
At the same event, state financial officer Datuk Mohd Ghazali Jalal, who read the speech of Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, said Perak had the most number of quarries in the country with 60.
This made the state the biggest producer of cement in the country.
He added that Perak was also the number one producer of tin ore in the country.
“Economic contribution in the form of royalty from the tin mining and quarry activities has shown an increase after the state adopted the new State Mineral Enactment.
“This is visible with the collection of almost RM54.1mil last year compared to RM5.6mil in 2011.
“For the first half of this year, the state government has managed to collect royalty amounting to RM14.6mil,” he said.

Another report in The Star on 24 June 2013 suggests that the geopark will be in the heart of the quarried area -

Proposed geopark will affect quarry operations, says trade association

By EDMUND NGO
edmundngo@thestar.com.my

THE setting up of the proposed Kinta Valley Geopark in Simpang Pulai will affect the eight quarries operating around the area, according to Perak Quarry Association.
Association president Chong Sook Kian said the geopark could cause the quarries to cease operations, affecting 400 employees there.
“Other than the direct employees, there are also three times that number of indirect employments, such as lorry drivers, whose livelihoods will be affected if the quarries close down.
“The association is not against the idea of setting up a geopark but we felt that Gua Tempurung is a more suitable location compared to Simpang Pulai,” he said in a press conference on June 17.
Last year the State Minerals and Geoscience Department had presented a paper proposing to turn 16 limestone hills into geopark, sites, which would be similar to the one in Langkawi.
Although there was verbal agreement to establish the geopark the final decision will only be made when the matter is brought to the state executive council.
Chong said Gua Tempurung was a more suitable site as the surrounding area was untarnished by human activities, which would be instrumental in the state government’s efforts to gain Unesco Heritage site status for the geopark.
“The quarries at the site have been operating for 20 years so we hope to engage the state government and other stakeholders before the geopark is set up,” he said.
Apart from the geopark, Chong said the association also hoped the state government would reconsider the new export royalty rate, which would come into effect on July 1.
“We were briefed that the state government has gazetted the amendment to increase the export royalty for limestone from RM2 per metric tonne to RM7 per metric tonne, while for granite, it has been increased from RM1.80 per metric tonne to RM5 per metric tonne.
“The last increase was made in 2001 and we felt that the increase this time was too significant.
“Furthermore, granite quarries, which are located in Manjung, face stiff competition from Johor and other countries in exporting the rocks to Singapore.
“The royalty increase will add to their operating costs and put them at a disadvantage,” he said.
Chong said the association presented a memorandum to Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and the state Land and Mineral Office, hoping that they could reconsider the increase.
“We are suggesting that the limestone export royalty tax be increased to RM5 per metric tonne while the granite export royalty tax to stay the same as the granite industry is facing strong competition,” he said.

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Increase in tin mining activities

The Star, June 12, 2013

By MANJIT KAUR
manjit@thestar.com.my

TIN mining activities in Perak is on the increase with 30 mines in operation now.
State financial officer Datuk Mohd Ghazali Jalal said the state was the number one producer of tin ore in the country with the lead taken by Rahman Hydraulic in Pengkalan Hulu that has existed for over 100 years, making it the oldest, exposed mine in the country.
He said economic contribution from tin mining and quarrying activities had shown an increase since the state adopted the new State Mineral Enactment.
“For the first half of this year, the state government managed to collect royalty amounting to RM14.6mil,” he said when opening the National Geoscience Conference 2013 at a hotel in Ipoh last Saturday.
He was reading Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir’s speech on his behalf.
Mohd Ghazali said although in comparison the collection from these activities were assumed small, but there was potential for expansion with new locations being identified, and usage of latest technologies to increase productivity.
He, however, expressed hope that both the quarry and mining activities would be carried out in an environmental friendly manner.
Perak was rich in natural resources that could attract the attention of the world such as the Royal Belum rainforest in Hulu Perak and the Lenggong Valley Archeological Centre.
“Besides that, the beautiful limestone landscape, and interesting history of mining activities in Kinta Valley also has vast potential for expansion.
“We need to learn the experiences from China in efforts to conserve natural heritage resources in order to turn it into a tourism sector.
“Several tourism centres based on karst topography with the geopark concept have been established in China which included Guilin and Xingwen World Geopark,” he added.
Mohd Ghazali said he welcomed efforts to establish a karst complex in Kinta Valley in order to transform the area into a geopark of a world-class standard.
He said proper and continuous planning was required to ensure the beauty of these unique landscapes in Kinta Valley is preserved and conserved, while its ecstatic and scientific values recorded.
“Therefore I will really appreciate ideas and expertise from the geoscientists because the state government will support all efforts to make the geopark a reality.
“I believe with the establishment of the geopark, it will be a catalyst to the tourism industry not only in Perak but in Malaysia overall,” he added.

Mulu to be smoke free by 2017

On 18 June MyBorneo Pos published this article -

No smoking in Mulu by 2017

Mulu has been designated ‘Smoke-Free Mulu Heritage’ (MuHBAR) by the Miri Divisional Health Department here to transform it into a smoke-free zone by 2017.
A `smoke-free zone’ is a gazetted area where smoking is prohibited.
Mulu was chosen as it is a Unesco World Heritage site famous for its cave and limestone formations.
If the mission is successful, Mulu will be the third world heritage site in the country to be a smoke-free zone after Malacca and Georgetown in Penang.
To make it become a reality, the department concerned appeals for collaborative efforts from the government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and private sector, as well as Sarawak State Government, Sarawak Health Department, Sarawak Forestry Department and Malaysia Health Promotion Board (MySihat).
“We are determined with our initiative to transform Mulu into a smoke-free zone by 2017.
“And given strong support and cooperation from everybody, we are confident of success,” a spokeswoman said when contacted by The Borneo Post recently.
Asked the rationale of having the smoke-free zones, she said it was to protect non-smokers from the effects of second-hand smoke.

A later piece in Malay, "Mulu akan jadi tapak warisan zon bebas asap rokok" in the Borneo Post on 12 Dec.
And another piece in Borneo Post on 12 Dec mentions that the no smoking cannot be enforced inside residential houses or private dwelling as well as cafeterias.

A competition was held to design a logo and the winner was announced in the Borneo Post on 12 Dec. The winning entry was a combination of two iconic features, the Mulu Pinnacles and a hornbill which made up his No Smoking Mulu logo.

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Visitors to Lenggong Valley & gallery

This report in NST 15 July talks about the increased visitor numbers to Lenggong gallery -

More visitors to Lenggong Valley

By Loghun Kumaran

UNESCO HERITAGE SITE: Work in progress to provide proper facilities for visitors and protect artifacts
LENGGONG: ONE year after the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) recognised Lenggong Valley as a World Heritage Site, Malaysia's first prehistoric gallery has seen a significant increase in the number of visitors.
Opened in 2003, the Lenggong Valley Archaeological Gallery is home to Perak Man, as well as a variety of earthenware and thousands of tools made of stone and bronze. The artifacts have been dated from 1.83 million years to 1,700 years ago.
Experts believe that the tools found in the area constitute physical proof that early humans inhabited the region during their migration from Africa to Australia.
National Heritage Department (central zone) director Mohd Syahrin Abdullah said last year's announcement had triggered a sudden surge of interest among Malaysians, exceeding the department's expectations.
"The number of visitors to the gallery has increased 150 per cent since the June 2012 announcement. Undoubtedly, this shows that Malaysians are very interested in the nation's prehistoric information."
However, Syahrin could not provide specific data.
The overwhelming response, however, was accompanied by negative feedback, with many complaining of the lack of transport and basic infrastructure.
Syahrin, who is also gallery heritage officer, said this situation was no "accident".
"The public have to understand that besides the Archeological Gallery, the valley is home to many other fragile historical sites. The gallery itself is open for public view. A few sites can be visited, such as Gua Kajang, Gua Teluk Kelawar, Bukit Sapi, Gua Harimau and Kota Tampan, but there are others that are not, due to their sensitivity, until proper protection is in place.
"The department is struggling to develop proper infrastructure for visitors at each site as part of a five-year plan.
"We want the places to be safe for the people and the artifacts.
"Only when we have erected viewing posts, interpretation centres and proper fencing can we engage the public with signage and other publicity activities."
Syahrin also expressed optimism that Lenggong Valley would benefit in the long term from the United Nations recognition.
"Malaysia's other World Heritage Sites have all experienced booms in their tourist-related fields.
"It is too early for any drastic changes for Lenggong, but you can see the beginnings of the boom, as the nearby homestays and resorts such as Resort Tasik Raban have become popular."

This was followed by an article in The Star 30 August in which Lenggong residents were commenting on the lack of visitors -

Residents say more needs to be done to promote Lenggong Valley by Edmund Ngo

THE Lenggong Valley archaeology site has not attracted visitors despite receiving the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage Site recognition a year ago.
Lenggong town still looks “sleepy”, with only the development of a new health clinic and a land and district office taking place recently.
Business owners are hoping for the state government and the local council to carry out development plans to bring in more tourists soon.
Trader Sarimah Johan, 29, said with the recognition, Lenggong has great potential to hold a variety of events, bazaars or carnivals to attract more visitors.
“There should be more events where people can browse through a variety of stalls, stay over night and visit the archaeology sites.
“I can see that there is a lot of interest because even schools from Kelantan have organised bus trips to the site and stopped by at the town,” she told The Star.
Trader Sarimah Johan, 29, said with the recognition, Lenggong has a great potential to hold a variety of events, bazaars or carnivals to attract more visitors.
Sarimah said well planned programmes could generate a steady stream of visitors all-year long and benefit the local economy.
The Lenggong Valley had captured the attention and interest of the world’s archaeological community since the discovery of the Perak Man’s skeletal remains, stone tools and other ancient treasures at the area.
On June 30, Unesco recognised the Lenggong Valley in Hulu Perak as a world heritage site, making Malaysia a popular destination for tourists as well as archaeologists.
The Lenggong Valley is the 953rd site on the World Heritage List and is the fourth site in Malaysia to have earned the recognition after Malacca city, George Town in Penang, Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak and Taman Kinabalu in Sabah.
Mini mart owner K.K. Looi said with so much history in the valley, the town needed a proper tourism information centre.
“It should provide adequate information on the archaeological sites, Lenggong’s history and other attractions around the district.
Entrepreneur Asnan Mohd Yusoff, 51, said the town still lacked sufficient places to stay, as there is only one rest house and several homestays available.
“After its Unesco recognition, we have seen a few foreign tourists walking around the town asking whether there was such a centre.
“They wanted to find out how to get to the archaeology sites and what were the other attractions in the valley.
“Whenever I encounter such tourists, I would give them the number of a local guide who would make the necessary arrangements for them,” he said.
Looi said although tourists were still able to visit the sites, this method was inconvenient and did not leave a good impression on them.
“The authorities need to develop the infrastructure such as improving the access roads leading to the archaeological sites.
“We are very concerned that the hard earned Unesco recognition would be retracted if no effort is put by the state government and the local authority to conserve and promote the area,” he said.
Looi said the state government’s tourism body could focus on promoting Lenggong as an attraction point before tourists continued their journey to the Royal Belum State Park.
“Local tourists also come to the town to enjoy the freshwater fishes and other local delicacies,” he said.
Entrepreneur Asnan Mohd Yusoff, 51, said the town still lacked sufficient places to stay, as there was only one rest house and several homestays available.
“It would be difficult for travel agencies to bring in large groups of tourists as it is hard for them to find places to stay.
“There are talks of setting up a hotel, but I believe it is still in the planning stages,” he said, adding that once there is sufficient places to stay, bringing in more tourists would not be difficult.
Asnan planned to tap into local demand by setting up a souvenir shop.
“Apart from meeting local demands, I also plan to create unique Lenggong souvenirs featuring the archaeology sites such as t-shirts and mugs, which tourists like very much.
“As a local, this is my way of encouraging tourists to come to our town,” he said.



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Lenggong visitor centre design competition

There was a competition for architecture ideas to design a visitor centre at Lenggong. There were a few press releases. This one was in The Star on 11 June, protecting Lenggong

Protect uniqueness of Lenggong Valley, says Nazri

The uniqueness of the Lenggong Valley archaeology site must be protected in order to maintain its recognition as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said that if the site was not well protected, the Unesco recognition, which was obtained in June 30 last year, could be retracted.
“The Unesco recognition was hard to obtain.
“It took us about five years to receive it after applying for it. It is prestigious, adds economic value and is a dream of all countries,” he said in his speech at the awards presentation reception for the best design for a visitor centre for the Lenggong Valley archaeology site yesterday.
Lenggong Valley is a unique outdoor museum and features one of the first human civilisations in South-East Asia.
It is the fourth site in Malaysia to receive the Unesco recognition after Malacca and George Town, the Kinabalu Park and Mulu National Park.
The Perak Man, that was found in Gua Gunung Runtuh, was one of the oldest and most complete human skeletal remains in South-East Asia that was dated 10,000 to 11,000 years old.
Nazri said that any development at the site must be implemented carefully to protect the “outstanding universal values”.
He said the cooperation between the Federal and Perak Governments was towards the same goals – its protection and promotion.
At a press conference later, Nazri said the building of the visitor centre would commence when the allocation was granted.
On the competition, he said 100 architects went for a site visit to Lenggong Valley and 66 entries were submitted.
Nazri also congratulated the National Heritage Department for winning five awards for the Unburying The Past documentary during The Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival.



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Merapoh's hills and caves, new flora and fauna discoveries, and possible destruction of the area

Having been doing a lot of work in the Merapoh area of Pahang over the past year, it was good to see this write up in The Star on 16 July, Rare finds on outcrops about the exciting discoveries being made by FRIM. However other pieces on the same day also talked about the possible destruction of the area, Caving in to development and Plant rethink which talks about the proposed clinker and cement plant.
Another article a few days earlier on 12 June, Merapoh ‘cave paradise’ under threat talks about how the whole area, hills, caves, flora and fauna, could all be destroyed by the cement plant.

Also relating to the Merapoh area, the Central Spine Road (CSR) from Simpang Pelangai in Bentong, Pahang to Kuala Krai in Kelantan is being built right through the Merapoh area. This is progressing quite fast in Pahang but not in Kelantan. See this report in The Star on March 2. The section south of Merapoh is quite impressive with 10 m high bridges specially built to allow wildlife to pass underneath. The area has large mammals such as tigers and elephants. By early July 2013 a short stretch of highway bypassing Chegar Perah had already opened.

More exciting discoveries were made in Merapoh, the latest being geckos. Dr Lee Grismer recently found 3 new species of geckos in and around the caves. See The Star In search of herps.

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Batu Caves won't be UNESCO World Heritage site

There is sometimes talk of nominating various sites around the country for UNESCO World Heritage. Batu Caves was one such site. It has now been announced that Batu Caves will not be nominated as it does not meet the criteria.

The Star, 18 July -

Batu Caves does not meet Unesco World Heritage Site criteria

Stories by BAVANI M

THE National Heritage Department has no plans to nominate the iconic Batu Caves to be listed as a World Heritage Site as it does not meet the criteria.
The status is awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).
A spokesman from the department said Batu Caves had lost its appeal, and as such, does not qualify as a Unesco Heritage site.
“Not all sites qualify as Unesco has specific criteria and guidelines. Batu Caves does not fulfil even one criterion out of the 10 listed,’’ she said.

Then less than 1 week later, it was reported that Batu Caves did meet the criteria! See The Star on 22 July, Palanivel: List Batu Caves as heritage site.

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Batu Caves dress code

Apparently Batu Caves temple authority has put up a notice about a dress code at the stairs. It is mainly to stop joggers wearing shorts and to stop people from smoking. However it seems the code is not strictly enforced. See the report in The Star, 15 August.

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Batu Caves, rock climbing at Damai Cave

Aug 26 the Star did a feature on rock climbing at Damai Cave - this used to be called Fig Tree Cave. This part of the hill is being developed as Batu Caves extreme park.

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Limestone hills and caves of Ipoh

The Star 31 Aug did a feature on the limestone hills around Ipoh. Limestone hills and caves: Dead or alive?. And a follow up article, striking a happy balance.

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Bring Perak Man home & Lenggong anniversary carnival

Last year in 2012 it was reported over a few months that the bones of Perak Man should be returned to Lenggong from KL. This has again been mentioned, in NST 3 Sept. This time it looks as if things might be happening.

IPOH: The "Perak Man" is coming home soon.

The world-famous 11,000-year-old skeletal remains, now on display at the National Museum in Kuala Lumpur, will return to Lenggong Valley, where it was first unearthed in 1991.
State Tourism Committee chairman Nolee Ashilin Mohammed Radzi said the National Heritage Department was preparing a containment unit with regulated temperature to preserve the remains.
"The containment unit ensures that the remains do not disintegrate.
"We expect the unit to be ready within six months."
The Lenggong Archaeological Museum now has only a replica of the skeleton.
The plan to bring back Perak Man was initiated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation when Lenggong Valley was declared a World Heritage site on July 1 last year.
Perak Man is the only ancient and complete human skeleton exhumed in Malaysia.
In conjunction with Lenggong Valley's recognition as a World Heritage site, Nolee Ashilin said a string of events had been lined up, starting today until Saturday, at 9.30am.
This includes the display of traditional dishes from 18 villages, a forum by ustaz Mohd Kazim Elias Al-Hafiz and a performance by singer Jamal Abdillah.
Regent of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah will launch the carnival at Dataran Lenggong at 8pm today.

A feature on Perak Man and the Lenggong Valley in the NST Holiday section on 19 Sept.

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Group proposes EIA for Batu Caves

There is so much development taking place at Batu Caves. Now the Friends of Batu Caves (FoBC) have suggested that an EIA should be done before any more development takes place. The Star published a piece about this on 5 Sept.

Group proposes EIA for Batu Caves by Isabelle Lai

An environmental impact assessment (EIA) must be conducted before any development at the 400-million-year-old Batu Caves is considered, said Friends of Batu Caves (FoBC).
The environmental coalition urged the Selangor government and Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to insist, with immediate effect, on an EIA for any development activities at and within the Batu Caves’ buffer area.
FoBC stressed that this was crucial in view of Batu Caves’ status as a national heritage site and its proposed listing as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
“Although this may not be required by law at the moment, special consideration should be given to the area.
“Particularly since there have been recent calls by prominent figures including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel for Batu Caves to be nominated as a World Heritage Site,” it said.
It added that the operational guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention clearly stated that impact assessments for proposed interventions were essential for all World Heritage properties.
FoBC warned that Batu Caves’ location within a densely populated and heavily developed area meant that it was highly vulnerable to irreversible damage, especially to the fragile karst and cave ecosystems of the limestone hill.
It lauded the stop-work order which was issued by the Selayang Municipal Council for the controversial cable car project, as well as the establishment of a special task force to deliberate on the status of structures at the Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam temple there.
Council president Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain said last week that the temple committee had submitted building plans for 20 illegally-built structures inside the temple compound for the council’s assessment.
He said that the stop-work order would be lifted for the cable car project if everything was found to be in order.
However, the council would first need to submit its final report for the state government’s approval.
He had expressed his concern about public safety due to the unstable soil surrounding Batu Caves, saying that the state’s Town and Country Planning and Economic Planning departments would be conducting soil tests.
The members of FoBC include the Malaysian Nature Society, Eco­Knights, Treat Every Environment Special, WWF-Malaysia, Rimba, Cave Management Group Sdn Bhd and Resource Stewardship Consultants Sdn Bhd.

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Removing bats from Batu Caves

I was interested to read this report and see that some action has been taken. Often no one bothers when creatures such as bats are killed. When the private wine cellar in Perak was being constructed, the bats and other cave fauna were killed. But bats using nests........ "He said the pest controllers had sprayed chemicals at the nests to get rid of the bats" !!!!!

The Star, 3 Oct 2013

Bats forced from caves by steven Daniel

THE company managing Cave Villa, a tourist attraction in Batu Caves, has hired a pest control company to get rid of the bats in two of the caves.
The move has caused an uproar among environmentalists.
According to a source, the management had hired the pest control company several months ago to get rid of the bats.
He said this was because the bats were carriers of various diseases and the operators did not want to endanger visitors’ health.
However, he could not say if there had been complaints of people falling ill due to contact with the bat droppings.
“The bat droppings are an eyesore and tourists are often put off by the sight,” said the source.
He said the pest controllers had sprayed chemicals at the nests to get rid of the bats.
He admitted that no experts or environmental groups had been consulted prior to hiring the pest control company.
He said, however, that the bat population had decreased.
The source said the pigeon population in Batu Caves was also being kept under control by trapping about 50 pigeons every two weeks.
“There are just too many here,” he said.
Meanwhile, Friends of Batu Caves coalition spokesman Lim Teck Wyn said they were appalled by the operator’s actions.
He said under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, it was an offence to harm indigenous wildlife in any location, adding that at least 10 species of bats were living in some of the 20 caves in Batu Caves.
“The area where Cave Villa is located was gazetted in 1930 for public use and should not have been converted for commercial use in the first place.”
“The Batu Caves temple committee has abused its powers,” he said when contacted.
He urged the Wildlife Department (Perhilitian) to take stern action over the matter.
Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) officers, led by licensing director Affendei Samingan, also visited Cave Villa yesterday morning following a recent StarMetro report on Tuesday titled “National icon in shambles”.
It was reported that many visitors were unhappy over the deplorable condition of the Cave Villa and questioned its relevance in a place of worship as well as its effects on the environment.
MPS found the operators of Cave Villa guilty under the Entertainment and Entertainment Premises regulations (Selangor,1996), for failing to apply for an entertainment licence and fined them RM1,000.
The operators only have valid licences to sell food, beverages and souvenirs.
Affendei said the operators were cooperative and had claimed they were unaware of the need to apply for an entertainment licence.
He said they would be applying for one soon.
Later, MPS also inspected 21 business premises in Batu Caves and issued three compounds of RM1,000 each to three premises for not having valid licences.
On reports of alleged abuse of animals kept in Cave Villa and bats, Affendei said they would notify Perhilitan to investigate the claims.

But the next day, 4 Oct, it seemed Perhilatan doesn't care about the bats.

Perhilitan: Species of bats in Cave Villa not under our purview by by steven daniel AND bavani m

AS THE furore over bats being forced out of Cave Villa, a tourist attraction in Batu Caves rages on, there seems to be confusion on which agency has jurisdiction on the matter.
According to a Wildlife Department (Perhilitan) spokesman, they had sent a team to the area yesterday but the species living in the two caves operated by Cave Villa did not fall under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 and as such were beyond their purview.
However, Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) president Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain said Perhilitan should investigate the matter.
“The council is prepared to conduct its own investigations.
“I cannot comment on Perhilitan’s behalf but when my officers do the site inspection soon, we will invite Perhilitan,” he said.
Mohd Azizi expressed concern over the chemicals used by the pest controllers to chase away the bats, as the area is popular among Malaysians and tourists.
Selangor executive councillor for Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment, Elizabeth Wong was shocked that the bats were treated in this way.
“Bats play an important role in our ecosystem. Some of these bats fly as far as Hulu Selangor and other fruit orchards and help pollinate the plants.”
She said any action which might affect the environment or eco-system must be properly assessed and researched before being implemented.
The Malaysian Nature Society in a statement said bats were essential for a healthy cave eco-system.
“Perhaps the Cave Villa management lacks environmental knowledge. The Malaysian Nature Society will be pleased to provide an environmental education programme to enhance their awareness on cave management,” said its head of communications, Andrew J. Sebastian.
Cave Villa is among several structures built in the Batu Caves area. Many Hindus said some of the projects undertaken have no religious significance while environmentalists have raised concerns over the impact of development on the flora and fauna in the area.
In July, the National Heritage Department said Batu Caves did not meet the criteria to be declared a Unesco World Heritage Site.

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Mulu Caves project 2013

The latest internationtal expedition to Mulu took place in Oct 2013. The team was formed of 16 cavers from the UK, Australia and Denmark, with participants from Sarawak, and was based at Camp 5 in the Melinau Gorge. They continued exploration in Whiterock Cave - this is part of the Clearwater system, and they managed to extend the system to 197 km, making it now 9th longest in the world. They also looked at a new area at the northern end of Gunung Benarat. See preliminary results.

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Merapoh cement plant project cancelled

See earlier news in July.
Having attended a meeting at MNS HQ with the Pahang Tourism Exco Mohd Sharkar on 11 Nov 2013, we were told that the cement plant idea would be cancelled. Later that week, this piece was published in The Star, 16 Nov 2013.

No cement plant project in Merapoh by isabelle lai

The Pahang state government has promised that there will be no cement production plant at Merapoh.
Instead it is planning to convert the area to an ecotourism destination.
Pahang Tourism and Culture Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Sharkar Shamsuddin said they were now surveying the size of the area to be gazetted for ecotourism purposes.
“The state exco has opposed the cement plant project. We will come up with a master plan for sustainable development in Merapoh.
“So people don’t have to worry anymore and can sleep well,” he told The Star, referring to the concerns raised by environmentalists over the proposed cement plant project.
The land was held by Bintang Tower, while the cement manufacturing license was held by Lipis Cement since 1997 although the project never took off.
Concerns over the project’s revival arose when Singapore-based company, ASN Cement, expressed interest in restarting the project in late 2011.
Mohd Sharkar said he would enlist the expertise of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) as well as other relevant organisations to help with the master plan.
He said their input was important as the state government wanted to ensure that development there was carried out properly.
“It is also important for me to know the dos and don’ts regarding the environment. I will ask experts to look into cave and orchid conservation at Merapoh as well,” he said.
Mohd Sharkar said the state government would also propose to Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd that it upgrade its train station there, as it planned for tourists to travel by rail to Merapoh.
“We are not just doing this for ecotourism, but to preserve the ecosystem of Malaysia itself. We want to ensure our water catchment areas are not harmed,” he said.
MNS president Prof Dr Maketab Mohamed praised the state government’s rejection of the cement plant project.
“We are very happy. This shows the state government is serious about conservation and using ecotourism as a means of generating income,” he said, adding that Sabah was a good example to follow.
Maketab said MNS would be glad to lend its help in developing the master plan before any work began.

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Writing on cave walls

This report in the Borneo Post on 31 Dec 2013 is about Gua Raya being opened as a 'show cave'. Gua Raya is in Skuduk-Chupak Recreational Park in Sarawak. I was a bit perturbed to read “There is so much potential there, and good business opportunity. In China, the tourists even pay to write on rocks, which shows there is a lot of possibility which we can explore there,”. " just imagine you charge fees for the cave, the herbal garden and writing on a rock, that’s a lot of money you can make”. I hope they don't start encouraging visitors to do this at Gua Raya.

Skuduk-Chupak Recreational Park unique

by Samuel Aubrey, reporters@theborneopost.com.

KUCHING: Those loving adventure and nature should consider visiting Gua Raya, a cave situated between the villages of Skuduk and Chupak off Mile 23, Kuching-Serian Road, one of these days.
This is because the cave now has proper walkway and fenced up parking area, which was recently completed with funds from the Ministry of Tourism.
The implementing agency Padawan Municipal Council (MPP) yesterday officially handed over the developed area, known as Skuduk – Chupak Recreational Park to the Gua Raya Management Committee comprising villagers from Skuduk, Chupak and Plaman Payang.
MPP chairman Lo Khere Chiang said the Skuduk-Chupak Recreational Park is a unique area as the attraction is not just limited to the cave, but also the surrounding padi fields which both Skuduk and Chupak are known for.
“I have been there few times, with friends from abroad, and they were attracted by the cave, padi fields and the nearby man-made lake.
“A friend from Singapore even plucked padi and posted the photo on Facebook.
“There is so much potential there, and good business opportunity. In China, the tourists even pay to write on rocks, which shows there is a lot of possibility which we can explore there,” he said at the simple handing-over ceremony.
Also present were state legislative assembly Deputy Speaker Datuk Roland Sagah Wee Inn, who is also Tarat assemblyman, several MPP councillors and also members of Gua Raya Management Committee.
Gua Raya, which got its name due to its big space inside, is still unknown to many due to lack of publicity on it.
Word has it that it was once used as hiding place during Communist Insurgency, and there are many historical facts yet to be uncovered.
Though the cave has been explored, much of it and surrounding vegetation have been left undisturbed and maintained in its original state. There are also many interesting rock formations inside the cave.
The Tourism Ministry allocated RM300,000 last year for construction of walkway and sheds made of belian wood. The remainder of funds were used for car park area and fencing around the park.
Sagah also contributed some funds for the project. In his brief remarks, he said Gua Raya and its surrounding area are dubbed the Blue Lagoon by locals probably due to some resemblance in the setting of a 1980 film of the same name.
He believed the area will be a big hit among tourists once there is sufficient promotion, and he urged the management committee to learn from the success stories of Panchur and Annah Rais hot springs also located within Tarat constituency.br> “Panchur and Annah Rais hot springs both have humble beginnings, but they are now popular among visitors. Since Gua Raya is surrounded by many jungle herbs, you can also start a herbal garden at a certain spot for tourists to visit – just imagine you charge fees for the cave, the herbal garden and writing on a rock, that’s a lot of money you can make,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Gua Raya management committee chairman Awat Rinjit said they have not decided on when to fully operate as a recreational park that charges fees. “We will inform the public later,” he said, adding many activities are being planned for visitors including jungle trekking and rafting.

© Liz Price 2013