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Archives 2014

Some items from the press relating to caves

Contents :

Merapoh rare earth mining
Thaipusam 2014
Gunung Kanthan
Deer Cave v Son Doong
Batu Caves cable car
Perak Man back home
Merapoh a popular tourist destination
Fires on limestone hills
Plans for Gunung Rapat
Crystals from caves
Attenborough to film in Gomantong
Gua Tambun vandalism
Lenggong fences & signs vandalised
Batu Caves statues against Islam
Sinkholes in KL
Royal Mulu Resort becomes Marriott
Mulu 2014 expedition
Racing in Gua Tempurung
Langkawi's Geopark status threatened
Prof. Wilhelm Solheim II dies
Batu Caves scarf fee
Chuping cement
Gua Tempurung graffiti and littering
New, large cement plant, Gua Musang
Sarawak Chamber v China's Miao Room size
3 workers killed at landslide at Bukit Sagu quarry
Kenyir as Geopark proposal
Kinta Valley Geopark
Endangered snails in The Guardian
Asia’s fragile caves face growing development risks, The Guardian
Mulu Caves in Malaysia Square, London
Mulu floods

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Merapoh rare earth mining

By the end of 2013, it seemed likely that the Merapoh area in Pahang will be saved from quarrying and the cement plant, see Archives 2013. Then early Jan 2014 there was news the area could be under threat from rare earth mining -

Verde Resources To Commence Merapoh Rare Earth Exploration With SRK Consulting
Verde Resources, Inc. (OTCQB: VRDR) is looking to become part of the growing multibillion-dollar rare earth element industry. The Company is ready to commence exploration at their highly prospective rare earth elements Merapoh Mine and has engaged SRK Consulting to guide the exploration and independent feasibility evaluation. The evaluation report will be done to bankable standards accepted by financial institutions worldwide. Recent samples taken from the Merapoh Mine in Pahang, Malaysia and assayed at SGS Tianjin Mineral Laboratory have indicated the existence of 15 rare earth oxides. Among them are eight of the more valuable heavy rare earth elements-- see link for the full report, 8 Jan.

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Batu Caves Thaipusam

Thaipusam 2014 was cleaned up! In previous years, Thaipusam at Batu Caves was getting more and more like a carnival. In 2014 this changed and the emphasis was back on the religious aspect. As the chariot left Kuala Lumpur on its journey to Batu Caves, the groups of youths on noisy motorbikes were missing. There were more police and importantly lots of rubbish bins. People watching the devotees hand out refreshments along the route and this year extra workers were around to clear rubbish as soon as it formed. The fancy kavadis were mostly absent. There was less breaking of coconuts, less noise and less rubbish. See reports on FMT.

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Gunung Kanthan

Efforts continue to save Gunung Kanthan from being quarried by Lafarge. See Archives 2013, also my blog which has several posts on Kanthan.
The first news for 2014 in the papers is this report in The Star on 8 Feb -
New flora and fauna species found in Malaysia.
It was also reprinted in AsiaOne.

Also on 8 Feb, The Star had a piece on limestone hills in Perak, which include Kanthan.
Perak hills open to destruction, say experts.

As the article on the 8th was 'cut', another one was published in The Star on 9 Feb - Conserve rest of Gunung Kanthan.

There was nothing more in the media for a while. On 30 April Lafarge had a meeting with the MB of Perak, and as a result The Star published this report on 5 May. It is rather one sided, supporting Lafarge, with a few inaccuracies etc -

Dangerous caverns - Illegal use of limestone caves must be stopped, says Dr Zambry by Chan Li Leen

A GREAT number of limestone caves in the state are being occupied illegally for various purposes, including tourism and worship.
Revealing this, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir said the state government aimed to put a stop to the practice of occupying state land before seeking approval.
YB Datuk Dr. Zambry b. Abd Kadir- (BN-UMNO Pangkor)
“I know religion is a sensitive subject but the state is more concerned about public safety.
“Limestone caves are very sensitive to vibrations and can easily collapse,” he told reporters after chairing the weekly state executive council meeting in Ipoh recently.
Dr Zambry said those concerned should apply for permission to use limestone caves on state land as well as consult the Mineral and Geoscience Department on whether it was safe to conduct their activities there.
“Right now, these trespassers do not even want to meet with the authorities to discuss matters,” he said, adding that the number of such trespassers had increased in recent times.
The state government, he said, had no issues with places of worships located in caves such as Sam Poh Tong as it was well aware of their activities.
On another matter, Dr Zambry said Lafarge Malaysia Bhd had earlier briefed the state government on its efforts to conserve and protect the biodiversity discovered on Gunung Kanthan, Chemor.
“Representatives from Lafarge have briefed us on what it has done and what it will be doing to protect and conserve the area, which has a rich biodiversity.
“According to the company’s biodiversity study headed by Universiti Malaya’s Biological Sciences Institute head Prof Dr Rosli Hashim, the area is not only home to the endemic trapdoor spider Liphistius Khanthan, which is near extinction, but also other rare animals and plants.
“Lafarge has made a commitment to the state government that it will conserve the area.
“It has also taken on the state government’s advice to engage and explain its efforts to the public, who seem to be unaware of the company’s efforts.
“If the company does not let the public know what it is doing or intends to do, then the public will assume it is not doing anything,” Dr Zambry said, agreeing that certain non-governmental organisations had been painting a bad picture of Lafarge with regards to Gunung Kanthan.
He said Lafarge had also pledged to improve its facilities in order to reduce environmental impact as well as step up on its corporate social responsibility activities.
He added that the cement producer, which commenced operations in Kanthan some 50 years ago, back when houses and factories were not yet built in the area, would be investing another RM300mil to improve on the technology at its plant to minimise output of cement dust.

Later in May there was a press conference with Lafarge and the UM biodiversity study team and the results of the findings were announced. It seems strange that the press were told, but not the NGOs or scientists involved with Gunung Kanthan. In summary it seems that 384 species of flora and fauna had been recorded or collected, many are rare species. All are found in Zone D (where Gua Kanthan is). So now Lafarge say they may protect this area, but not the neighbouring Zone C!! As the Star report says, the combined area is one ecosystem so destroying part will affect the whole area. And the most ridiculous thing is they only found "about 2 species of cave organism" (according to the Oriental Daily report). Did the UM team study the cave?
Oriental Daily, 27 May, 'Half year of research, endangered species found in Gunung Kanthan'; Sinar Harian, 28 May, 'Jumpa spesies flora, fauna Gunung Kanthan' ; NST, 29 May, 'Rare finds at Gunung Kanthan'; The Star, 29 May, ‘Preserve all of Gunung Kanthan’

In Aug, Gunung Kanthan made the international news again, with reports focusing on the new endemic snail that is named after Lafarge, Charopa lafargei. The UK's Guardian, 25 Aug - "A tiny, rare snail in Malaysia has big consequences for global cement giant", and Mongabay on 24 Aug - "Scientists name new endangered species after the company that will decide its fate". This was followed by a shorter piece in The Star, 30 Aug, "New snail species found".

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Deer Cave in Mulu v Son Doong in Vietnam

An article on Son Doong Cave in Quang Binh province in Vietnam that is now said to be the largest cave passage. This record used to be held by Deer Cave in Mulu. See full article on VietnamNet Bridge 14 Feb 2014. Also see statistics page.

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Batu Caves cable car

Every year the topic of building a cable car at Batu Caves is raised. See Archives 2013, 2012, 2011. This was again mentioned in The Star on 21 Jan 2014 :

Cable car line might not go through limestone cave

EXPERTS involved in a soil study to determine the safety of building a cable car line on the Batu Caves limestone hill have found the project site unsafe as it is too soft and may not be able to bear the weight.
A team of state-appointed experts presented their first-phase findings following a soil stability study for the Batu Caves reserve area recently to the Selangor Economic Action Council (MTES).
Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) president Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain said the report by two academics from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UITM) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) showed that parts of the area were unstable.
This includes the limestone hill where the cable car line is supposed to end, near the temple.
“The main aim of the study is to determine the stability of the limestone hill as well as identify underground cavities,” said Mohd Azizi.
While the site for the ground station is stable, he said the hill portion was not, and could pose danger to the public.
“The study is ongoing, until March 7,” Mohd Azizi said, adding that once the complete report was ready, the council would incorporate the findings into its local planning,
“We asked the state government to allow for the soil study at the Batu Caves temple site first to ensure the cable car project is safe,” said Azizi.
The study will also include Kampung Wira Damai, located behind the limestone hills in Phase Two, and other parts such as the Dolomite development, all within the Batu Caves reserve area.
In his speech during the state-organised Thaipusam celebrations last Thursday, Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said the first-phase soil study for the temple complex has been completed.
“The limestone is not very strong and as such the cable car project must follow strict guidelines,” said Khalid.
He also said that Sri Maha Mariamman Devasatha­nam committee chairman Datuk R. Nadarajah was welcome to sit down with the state government and MPS to discuss the experts’ findings.
Currently, MPS has received all the as-built plans for structures deemed illegal in the temple complex.
This was a pre-requisite before a decision is made on the cable car project. However, the state government has asked MPS to hold off any decision until the soil study is completed.

Another report in The Star on 21 Jan about a statue being erected without permission, "Structure erected despite stop-work order for cable car project".

In July it was announced that the cable car project is finally off, as the " soil studies carried out by experts failed to confirm its feasibility. According to the detailed soil stability report, the upper parts of the limestone karsts of the hilltop caves have been zoned as “high risk”, putting a stop to any possibility of development on the 400mil-year-old limestone caves.", from The Star 10 July No go for cable car at Batu Caves and Public safety must come first, says society.

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Perak Man back home

The Star on 11 Jan 2014 and 13 Jan reported that Perak Man will be on public display in Lenggong by Feb.

Perak Man is back in Perak and now on display in the Lenggong Archaeological Gallery. The Star had 2 reports, one on 15 Feb and this one on the 16 Feb :

Perak Man back home in Lenggong by Chan Li Leen

Perak Man, the country’s oldest prehistoric man uncovered 24 years ago, is finally home.
Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, a Lenggong boy himself, became the first visitor to view the 11,000-year-old skeleton during a ceremony yesterday to mark the homecoming of Perak Man at the Lenggong Archaeological Gallery.
“It is a historical day for all of us, especially Lenggong folks. This is actually the first time that the Perak Man is being exhibited back here where it was discovered.
“I think the Lenggong people are the happiest to be able to see the actual Perak Man,” Nazri said.
Perak Man was uncovered at Gua Gunung Runtuh, about 8km from the gallery, by the Heritage Com­missioner Prof Emeritus Datin Paduka Zuraina Majid and a team of other archaeologists in 1990.
Perak Man’s skeletal remains are considered the most complete and oldest ancient skeleton in the peninsula. It was taken on exhibition to Penang and Japan, and later put on display at the National Museum in 2010, while a replica was showcased at the Lenggong Archaeological Museum, now known as the Lenggong Archaeological Gallery.
After Lenggong Valley was recognised as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage Site in July 2012, a decision was made to bring Perak Man back here.
On another matter, Nazri said the department had submitted the Lenggong Valley Conservation Management Plan to Unesco last month and added that the ministry would be looking at acquiring all 1,814ha of Cluster 1 and 2 of Lenggong Valley where archaeological sites are concentrated.

The Star, 20 Feb, 'Lenggong folk happy to have 11,000-year-old skeleton back'.

New Straits Times 15 Feb - Lenggong Valley Conservation Management Plan submitted to Unesco , 16 Feb - Protecting Lenggong Valley.

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Merapoh becoming a popular tourist destination

The Star, 17 Feb, published this report on Merapoh :

Merapoh is now a popular destination with lots of activities for visitors by Nik Naizi Husin

KUALA LIPIS: The idyllic village of Merapoh may not be known to the “rest of the world” had it not been for the developments in Gua Musang, Kelantan.
The developments in Gua Musang have acted as a cataylst to Merapoh, which is the main alternative route to Kota Baru.
A former communist settlement, Merapoh apart from becoming a transit point for travellers from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Baru and to Cameron Highlands or vice-versa, is now a popular destination for visitors, both local and foreign as the place has hundreds of caves in the limestone hills surrounding the village.
Its caves and the second gateway to the Taman Negara Park, shares the areas in both Jerantut and Lipis districts, its kelah santuary, its flora and fauna are the attractions for Merapoh to stand on its own as a favourite tourist destination.
To promote the caves and Merapoh town, Keretapi Tanah Melayu now ferry visitors from Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru and Singapore via the “jungle train” service.
The caves here are over a million years old and at least 85 precious limestone hills and dozens of rare species of flora and fauna are found here.
Visiting Merapoh by the train through the jungle rail line is a valuable experience for tourists particularly “back-packers”.
A travel agent Tuah Travel and Tours which has its office at the railway station in Kuala Lipis, is the most recommended guide to travel to the Merapoh town before exploring the 85 out of the 415 caves.
The caves provide a good sanctuary for reptiles and other animals.
The company’s general manager Mohd Hassan Tuah said he was offering the packages from Kuala Lumpur to Merapoh by train or by road and this also included a 5km treking to the Sungai Kelam waterfall, feeding the kelah fish in Kelah santuary in Kuala Juram, staying overnight in the guest house and moving on four- wheel drives to the three most visited caves of Gua Air Mata Dayang, Gua Padang Kawad and Gua Lima for the rock climbing activities.
Hassan said before 1980s, the only means of transport for the villagers to visit Kuala Lipis which was also once the capital of Pahang was by train.
According to the chief of the Nature Guides Association Merapoh Syukri Jali, there are at least five waterfalls in the Gua Padang Kawad and some villagers who have explored the caves, narrated that there were a lot of communist members and Japanese soldiers’ left over items found including the pre World War 2 typewriter. However, it disappeared and nobody knows where it is now.
“Why the place was named Gua Padang Kawad was because the area outside the cave was formerly a field where the Japanese army did their daily marching exercises.
”Inside the cave, we could walk in a stream of some 800m flowing water. However, because of the sharp stalagtites and stalagmites on the roof of the cave, we have to walk while bending our body or even crawl or swim in the stream eventhough its depth is just at knee deep.
Syukri said Gua Lima had some painting works on its roof believed to be drawn by the pre-historic people.
“This cave too is suitable for rock climbing and bouldering activities for its steepness,” Syukri said.
Meanwhile, Tourism Ministry’s Pahang Office general manager Idros Yahya said the guides who have been often tracking to the Gua Padang Kawad said they found a kind of rafflesia species known as rizanthes infanticida - which is also a parasit to other plants.
Idros said there were many more caves in Merapoh which are yet to be explored.
“Thefore, for an ordinary visitor, we advised them to stay in Merapoh for four days, and each day will be filled up with caving.
“Apart from that, they have to be fit and healthy because all activities needed the recommended level of physical fitness,” he said.
Idros said other caves which have been explored were Gua Gajah Gosok (Elephant Rubbing Cave), Gua Jambatan Batu (Stone Bridge Cave), and Gua Jinjang Pelamin (Wedding Throne Cave).
Tourism Malaysia’s Pahang Office director Mohd Faharuddin Hatmin said further promotion needed to be done for the Merapoh caving activities.
“We also hope that the locals will play aggresive roles to receive the visitors by providing proper accommodations which include chalets or guest houses.
“The most important aspect that they have to emphasise is hospitality and open heart,” he said.

--

The sad thing is that the number of visitors to the caves is increasing, and large numbers of people are visiting the caves in one group, but little or nothing has been done to protect the caves. The visitors are allowed to walk all over the formations. Instead they should be restricted to marked pathways through the delicate areas.

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Fires on limestone hills

The first quarter of 2014 saw a long dry spell in peninsula Malaysia. This resulted in high temperatures, water shortages and haze. Limestone hills were also affected. At least 3 caught fire.
The first was Gunung Tempurung in Perak. It was thought to be caused by a lightning strike.
NST - 15 Feb 'Gunung Tempurung in Kampar catches fire'; 17 Feb 'Firemen monitoring fire trail at Gunung Tempurung'; 19 Feb 'Gua Tempurung tourist spot not affected by forest fire in Kampar' .
The Star - 15 Feb 'Lightning strike sets Gunung Tempurung on fire'; 16 Feb 'Firemen facing a hard time in putting out fire at Gunung Tempurung'; 17 Feb 'Dept battles to contain Gunung Tempurung bushfire'; 18 Feb 'Bushfire brought under control'; 18 Feb 'Misreporting on fire at Gunung Tempurung affecting tourism in Gua Tempurung'; 19 Feb 'Bush fire at Gunung Tempurung successfully put out'.

Also in Perak, Gunung Lang just north of Ipoh was on fire in March. This resulted in a small rock fall in Gua Bahagia cave temple, see Sinar Harian 16 Mar.

In March a hill at Gua Musang caught fire. Sinar Harian on 7 Mar 'Gua batu kapur terbakar'.

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Plans for Gunung Rapat

A retired Ipoh businessman has lots of plans to improve Ipoh and its surroundings. One of those is for Gunung Rapat. Gunung Rapat is one of the largest limestone hills in the Kinta Valley and has many cave temples as well as industries attached to the hill. The Star did 2 reports (same text) - 25 Feb 'Business magnate all set to make Ipoh progress further' and 28 Feb 'Big plans for Ipoh". Here is an extract of the part relevant to Rapat :

"Datuk Dr Foo Wan Kien, 72, is still busy steering his company towards carrying out several mega projects.
Foo also excitedly revealed that Ipoh is set to have a new theme park amid a planned resort living development next to the Kek Lok Toong Temple in Gunung Rapat off Jalan Raja Dr Nazrin Shah.
“There will be rope climbing, mountain climbing, boating and lots of other activities for the public.
“It will not be very expensive as we want to ensure that everyone can afford to go on an adventure,” he said.
Also in Gunung Rapat, plans are afoot to set up Ipoh’s first retirement village.
“Surrounded by limestone hills and ponds, it will be a place where the elderly can relax.
And with the many activities planned, there is no chance to be bored,” he said."

The proposals sound very similar to what already exists at Gunung Datuk / Lost World of Tambun, which is north of Ipoh.

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Crystals from caves

Another report that suggests it is OK to plunder caves for crystals!!!

The Star, 28 Feb

Treasures from the cave by Edmund Ngo

MALAYSIANS and foreign tourists can now marvel at the largest private natural crystal collection at the MY Natural Crystal Gallery on the third floor of Penang Times Square in Jalan Datuk Keramat.
The gallery covers an area of over 1,300 sqm and features more than 1,000 unique and exquisite crystal formations.
Gallery founder S.H. Ong led the press on a guided tour of the gallery on Wednesday.
State Tourism Development and Culture Committee chairman Danny Law Heng Kiang, Penang Times Square general manager C.C. Yeap and Tourism Malaysia director Harun Pilus were also present for the tour.
Speaking to the press after the tour, Ong said he took over 10 years to amass the various crystals seen in his collection.
“Every crystal piece takes thousands of years to form and even then their beauty is not immediately seen.
“This is because when we enter into the caves, we only see the stalactites and stalagmites, while the crystal is inside. In order to marvel at the formations, harvesters face a tough job going through the muddy caves and hacking away the stone to reveal the inner beauty,” he said.
Ong said he started the gallery in order to encourage visitors to appreciate the natural beauties, especially since the crystals in his collection were all bought from the northern region of peninsula Malaysia.
“Malaysian crystal formations are quite brittle, therefore they are not suitable to be carved into decorative items and usually displayed as such, while those carved into decorative items are imported.”
Yeap said Penang Times Square was proud that Ong chose the mall to set up the gallery.
The gallery ticket prices for Malaysians are RM25 (adult) and RM15 (children) while foreign tourists are charged RM50 (adult) and RM25 (children). The gallery will be open from 11am to 9pm daily and the last entry time is 7.30pm. For details, e-mail myncgallery118@gmail.com or call 04-2265682.

--

I wrote a letter to The Star about this and it was published on 4 March :

Reaping profit from 'stolen' treasures

I WAS sad to read “Treasures from the cave” (The Star, Feb 28) about the new crystal gallery in Penang.

The article mentioned how the collection of crystals from caves was amassed over 10 years and all from the northern region of peninsula Malaysia.

The cave crystals found in stalactites and stalagmites took millions of years to form. Once removed, they will not be replaced.

Despite what the article said, they are beautiful in their natural setting in the cave and they all contribute to the attraction of the cave formations.

In many countries, removing speleothems such as stalactites and crystals from caves is a serious offence.

Sadly, Malaysia has no such protection for its caves.

It fact it is almost encouraged, especially in the northern states.

This is akin to stealing from Mother Nature, and then charging people to see the stolen goods.

LIZ PRICE
Kuala Lumpur

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Attenborough to film in Gomantong

This time a good piece of news. From The Star, 28 Feb :

Attenborough to film Sabah wildlife

Renowned British naturalist Sir David Attenborough is once again turning his attention on Sabah’s wildlife.
The documentary maker is spending about a month with a crew of 44 in Sabah’s Lost World, the Danum Valley and Gomantong Caves in the east coast to film flying creatures in three dimensional format.
The segments would be part of a documentary called Conquest of the Skies slated for release in the United Kingdom in December followed by other countries later.
“We are making a story about how insects and animals with bones have evolved to fly. There are more examples of the interesting flying creatures in Borneo than anywhere else in the world,” Attenborough said here on Wednesday.
“There are all sorts of flying reptiles such as frogs and snakes and then there is the flying lemur. This land is rich in wonders,” he said.
Attenborough said shooting a documentary in 3D format was most suitable as it would show clearly the movements of the animals.
This would be his second foray to the Gomantong caves that is home to thousands of bats.
“The first time I came to Sabah was 40 years ago to film the bats at the Gomantong caves which no one had done previously. At that time, we had to slash our way through the jungle because there was no road nearby,” he recalled.
“When we finally got into the cave, there was this huge pile of guano and we had to clamber on it to get a look at the bats. That was unforgettable,” he added.
Describing Borneo as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, he lauded efforts by Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia in conservation such as the Heart of Borneo initiative.
“This region rivals the Amazon and the Congo. It is amazingly diverse and we still don’t know the extent of what more there is to be discovered,” he said.

The Star 6 June "The company [Ropeskills Rigging Sdn Bhd] earned a reputation for providing rigging during renowned British naturalist Sir David Attenborough’s filming of Sabah’s wildlife at Gomantong Caves, outside Sandakan, earlier this year."

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Gua Tambun vandalised

There were a few reports in April about damage being done to the rock wall at Gua Tambun. This is where the prehistoric paintings are located. However none of the reports mentioned if this is new damage or older graffiti.

The Star had 2 reports, on 5 April 'Walls of Gua Tambun vandalised with paint and sketches' and 9 April 'Heritage site not treasured'. Sinar Harian also did a piece on 5 April, 'Gua Tambun jadi mangsa vandalism'.

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Lenggong fences & signs vandalised

In the Star report on 9 April about the damage to Gua Tambun in Perak, (see above), there was also mention of damage to property at Lenggong. Universiti Sains Malaysia Global Archeology Research Centre director Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Mokhtar Saidin said "at the Lenggong Valley heritage site, we fenced up the area but the fence has gone missing too, and signboards broken".

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Batu Caves statues against Islam

Although Malaysia is a multi-racial country, with Islam being the official religion, there are often 'upsets' between the various religions. The latest upset is because of the Hindu statues at Batu Caves.
The Malay Mail on 16 April published -
"‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says".
"The “huge” statues at a Hindu temple in Batu Caves are an affront to Islam as the religion forbids idolatry, a retired Court of Appeals judge said. He stressed that such sculptures of non-Muslim deities should not be built in the open, but should be placed within an enclosed building instead. “With such a huge statue, you’re showing that your religion is all mighty and powerful”..... "referring to the 42.7-metre high statue of Lord Murugan, the Hindu warrior god, at Batu Caves in Selangor. Pointing to the Federal Constitution which states that Islam is the religion of the federation, the former judge insisted Islam is above other faiths. “When non-Muslims build such big idols, it hurts people’s feelings,” he said. He added that non-Muslims had freedom of worship, but that such freedom must be exercised in a way where “Muslims don’t feel threatened”. (Click on link above for full article)

A similar report was published in Malaysian Insider, "Ex-judge: Huge Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islamic teachings".

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Sinkholes in KL

Much of the rock below KL is limestone and occasionally sinkholes appear. The latest one was in April, in Bukit Bintang. The Star 26 April -

Partial closure of Jln Bukit Bintang by Vincent Tan

TWO soil depressions and a sinkhole, discovered in Jalan Bukit Bintang has resulted in the closure of a 500m stretch of the road between Chulan Square and Menara Worldwide until further notice.
The first depression was discovered at 9am during underground tunnelling works for the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT) project on Wednesday and immediate repairs were undertaken by the contractor MMC Gamuda KVMRT (T) Sdn Bhd.
MRT Corp Strategic Communications and Public Relations director Amir Mahmood Razak said grouting (cement) was pumped into the first depression underneath the pedestrian walkway to strengthen the loose soil.
A new minor depression was discovered about 1m away from the first on Thursday and similar rectification work is being carried out there as well.
Additionally, a sinkhole, measuring 10m in length, 3.5m wide and about 2m deep, appeared in the same location as the two earlier soil depressions at 10.42pm on Thursday night.
MRT Corp and MMC Gamuda engineers have begun backfilling the sinkhole, to be followed by compaction grouting and road repairs.
According to Amir Mahmood, the depressions and sinkholes were caused by the Kuala Lumpur limestone formation.
“This geological formation is extremely challenging to tunnel through because there is the possibility of voids, cavities and other irregular rock formations,” said Amir Mahmood.
He added that to mitigate such risks, the company had conducted prior soil investigations, surface-monitoring and was using a specialised tunnel boring machine for limestone formations.

Sinkhole in KL city centre

On 2 July a sinkhole appeared in KL, in the city centre at Bukit Bintang. I blogged about it. The hole was filled with sand, The Star 4 July Mayor: Sinkhole filled with sand. Malay Mail 4 July, Sinkholes repair at Jalan Imbi almost completed.

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Royal Mulu Resort becomes the Marriott

The Royal Mulu Resort is under renovation and will be rebranded to become the Mulu Marriott Resort and Spa by the middle of 2014. It will be 5* standard. See Archives 2010.

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Mulu 2014 expedition

The 2014 Mulu Caves project expedition took place from April to May. Clearwater was extended to over 200 km, making it 8th longest on the world rankings.

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Racing in Gua Tempurung

Once again, an adventure race has been held in Gua Tempurung. This is frowned upon by the international caving community, and the UIS (International Union of Speleology) states in their Bulletin vol. 52, Nr 2 (2010) that "Competitions should not be held in caves". Unfortunately this doesn't seem to apply in Malaysia, as once again, Nomad Adventure have organized an Eco X Adventure Race using Gua Tempurung as part of the course, in May. It was also reported in The Star, 27 May, "Adventure race makes a comeback".
In 2012 there was another race in Gua Tempurung, "The Gua Tempurung Challenge".
Nomad Adventure seems to have little respect for caves as in the past they also had a flying fox installed inside Gua Kandu, some photos.

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Langkawi's Geopark status threatened

In July it was announced that Langkawi "is in danger of losing its Unesco Geopark status following the world body’s move to issue a “Yellow Card” warning because of the local authorities’ failure to abide by conservation and sustainable practice requirements.". See full report on Yahoo news, which was taken from Malaysian Insider 15 July and bahasa Malaysia version, also The Edge, 16 July.

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Prof. Wilhelm Solheim II dies

It was reported on SEAArch blog that Prof Wilhelm "Bill" Solheim II has died. He was a prominent archaeologist in southeast Asia and did studies on caves in Malaysia. He died on 25 July 2014.

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Batu Caves scarf fee

According to this letter in The Star, 4 August, female visitors who want to climb the stairs to the cave temple have to pay RM5 for the loan of a scarf. However it is not known if this charge is legal or where the money goes!

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Chuping cement

There was an undated article on Bernama news about Chuping in Perlis. One paragraph refered to caves and the cement/quarry - " BUKIT CHUPING GUA BERANGIN Chuping was once known for its hills, where many of its residents went to collect bat guano. The guano, extracted from the limestone caves in Bukit Chuping and sold as a highly potent natural fertiliser. Some also collect guano for their own use. Today, Bukit Chuping is one of the largest contributors of the nation's cement industry, as its limestones are being used in the nearby cement processing factory by Cement Industries of Malaysia Berhad (CIMA). For a small town in the smallest state in Malaysia, Chuping has contributed quite a lot for the country's growth".

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Gua Tempurung graffiti and littering

A piece in The Rakyat Post on 24 Aug about how the problem of vandalism in Gua Tempurung is getting worse. There is more graffiti and more littering and the cave rangers seem unable to do anything. Surely one solution would be to take in smaller groups and have better control, so the rangers can watch the visitors all the time.

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Largest cement plant will open, at Gua Musang, Kelantan

This article was in Sinar Harian on 4 Sept, "Kilang simen terbesar bakal dibuka", Largest cement factory will open. It is in Malay, but the main points are : "The largest cement plant involving an investment of RM1.38 billion venture Gua Musang District Council (MDGM) with ASN Cement Company Ltd will open in Chiku next year..... the cement plant was a result of the state government's efforts to develop Hulu Kelantan..... proposing to develop Chiku City due to its strategic location and has many limestone caves. This limestone cave is suitable for the opening of a cement plant as the company's interest......"

Chiku is near Gua Musang. ASN is the company that proposed to quarry in the Merapoh area in Pahang, just south of Gua Musang.

Back in 1998 there was a report in Utusan Express - "Kelantan's First Cement Factory Project To Stay. The Kelantan government will proceed with its first cement factory project at Gua Musang despite the current economic slowdown.... the company managing the RM600 milion project, Hongkew Holdings (M) Sdn Bhd..."

See more on the cement plant on archives 2015.

Sarawak Chamber v Miao Room

Sarawak Chamber in Gua Nasib Bagus in Mulu has long been considered as the world's largest underground chamber, in terms of size and volume. In Sept 2014 it was announced that the Miao Room Chamber in the immense Gebihe cave system, Guizhou, China is now larger in terms of volume. However Sarawak Chamber is still larger in area. See report in Nat Geog.

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3 workers killed at landslide at Bukit Sagu quarry

In Sept, 3 foreign workers were killed in a landslide at a quarry at Bukit Sagu 4 in Pahang. Although not mentioned by name, this must be the YTL quarry. There are several reports on the web, this one is from MalaysianDigest.com. And The Sun.

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Proposal for Kenyir to be a Geopark

Last year there was talk about setting up Geoparks for Bau & the Kinta Valley. Now there are proposals to apply for Geopark status for Kenyir Lake. See The Star, 27 Oct.

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More on the Kinta Valley Geopark

There were several news items about the Kinta Valley Geopark. This had been proposed in 2013. In Nov 2014 the park was launched and it was hoped to gazette it and obtain national status for the Geopark within the next two years. NST 23 Nov 'Kinta Valley Geopark to boost Perak tourism'; Star 26 Nov; Star 31 Dec. The Geopark includes limestone hills.

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Endangered Pahang and Perak snails in The Guardian

The Guardian (UK) 17 Nov 2014 featured some of the world's most threatened species on the IUCN Red List. Two of these are snails, found on limestone hills in Malaysia, which may be quarried to extinction.

The first is Charopa lafargei , which has Critically Endangered status, and is found at Gunung Kanthan in Perak. This hill is being quarried by Lafarge, after whom the snail was named. I have already posted many blogs about the quarrying of the hill and our fight to save the hill, caves, flora and fauna from destruction/extinction.

The second snail featured is Plectostoma sciaphilum. This is already thought to be extinct. It was known on Bukit Panching, near Kuantan in Pahang. This hill was totally destroyed some years ago, all that remains now is a lake.

See IUCNred list of endangered species. Red List: the world's most threatened species –interactive. and More than 22,000 species feature in conservationists’ ‘under threat’ list. See also Cement company blows up limestone hill and renders snail extinct. Then an amended piece in The Star 22 Nov.

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Asia’s fragile caves face growing development risks

The Guardian, 18 Dec, published this article, with some reference to Malaysian caves.

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In London, a Mulu Caves-inspired Malaysia Square soon

An "interesting" piece on how a theme of Mulu Caves will be built at Malaysia Square in the old Battersea power station, London. It appeared in the Malay Mail on 2 Dec, by Zurairi AR.

A Malaysia Square said to be inspired by Sarawak’s Mulu Caves will be built in London, the Malaysian consortium behind the Battersea Power Station redevelopment in the UK capital announced yesterday
The square, placed at one of the entrances of the Battersea project, will be formed with rocks supposedly quarried from every state in Malaysia, and mixed with materials broken down from the Power Station’s original chimneys.
“Yet the Malaysian connection runs deeper still … The very bedrock of our nation will form the basis of this beautiful space,” said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak when unveiling the design at the Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside here.
“For Malaysians, a visit to Battersea will bring a new sense of belonging, as the bond between our nations is given physical form,” said Najib, in the ceremony attended also by Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
According to the consortium, the square will be a two-level urban canyon with bridges and stairways, clad with limestone, granite, marble, sandstone, gravel and dolomite rocks.
The central amphitheatre will have a fountain in the shape of the hibiscus, Malaysia’s national flower, with its five petals representing each of Rukunegara, the five national principles of the country.
Energy generated from the public’s footsteps in the square will be stored to power two Tesla towers that on the Power Station that will light the night sky.
“Ten thousand kilometres away, a part of Malaysia is being built on the banks of the Thames. Long may it stand, a tribute to the friendship between our nations—and the promise of shared prosperity,” said Najib.
The consortium involved in the iconic £8 billion (RM40 billion) Battersea Power Station refurbishment project included the Employment Provident Fund, SP Setia Bhd and Sime Darby Bhd.
Construction officially began on July 2013, with the overall development anticipated to finish by 2025, although the Power Station will open to the public in 2019.

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Mulu floods

On Dec 29 severe floods hit Mulu when the Tutoh river rose by 2.5m. A lot of water was flowing into the river from the caves. The community of Long Iman and houses around the park HQ were flooded and tragically a longboat capsized with the loss of 3 people.

A News Item

A News Item