Friday, 8 May 2009

Project near Gunung Stong park worries WWF

Friday May 8, 2009 The Star Online, Malaysia

KOTA BARU: Any forest conversion close to a protected area such as Gunung Stong State Park is cause for concern, said WWF-Malaysia chief technical officer Surin Suksuwan.

In an e-mail to The Star yesterday, he said WWF-Malaysia was trying to obtain further information on the proposed development, such as exact location, to determine its possible impact on the environment.

“We would like to urge the proponents of the project and state government to be as transparent as possible with regard to this project,” he added in the email.

On Wednesday, State Economic Planning, Finance and Welfare committee chairman Datuk Husam Musa disclosed that the state government had approved a 440ha tract of land in the Gunung Stong tourist belt to local company Maxson Sdn Bhd to be developed into a palm oil plantation.

He declined to reveal the exact location of the area approved or to say if the land had logging potential.

Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat defended the move yesterday, saying: “We did not approve the application without any considerations, and the company had adhered to all the conditions set.”

Speaking after presenting Tafaqquh Fiddin school certificates to recipients at BalaiIslam, Lundang here, he denied that the land was given to PAS cronies.

“We considered all the criteria and approved it. Even if the company was a crony, it had complied with the conditions,” he added.

Gunung Stong is a forested area totalling 21,950ha with several prominent mountain peaks and hosts one of the tallest waterfalls in Malaysia, the seven-tier Jelawang Falls.

WWF Malaysia is producing a preliminary management plan for Gunung Stong State Park in collaboration with the Kelantan State Forestry Department.

Gunung Stong is also an important water catchment area for the Kelantan River and plays an important role in flood and drought regulation.

It is also an important wildlife habitat and is linked to the main range. Wildlife recorded in the area included elephants, tigers, tapirs and hornbills.

South Kelantan where the state park is located is an area rich in wild plants, many of which can only be found in this part of the world.