KUCHING: The conservation of wetlands in the state will be a continuous effort as the state upped its ante on sustainable forest management, said Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan.
Awang Tengah who is also Minister of Public Utilities and Minister of Industrial Development said yesterday sustainable forest management of wetlands was important due to the presence of mangroves which help filter polluted air, prevent land erosion and become a defence against tsunamis.
“Therefore it’s important to preserve the over 6,000 hectares of wetlands here,” he told reporters when met after he officiated at the World’s Wetland Day 2012 state level celebration at Kuching Wetlands National Park (KWNP) in Sg Lemidin.
Also present were Assistant Environment Minister Datu Len Talif Salleh, Assistant Resource Planning Minister Datuk Mohd Naroden Majais and State Forest director Ali Yusop.
In his speech earlier, Awang Tengah highlighted plans to turn the wetland park into an ecotourism destination.
“The setback for now is lack of promotion. The wetland park has potential to become a sustainable tourism product.
“However, it is important to have an ecosystem management plan which is not only for preservation but benefit the local economy.
“Both the Forestry Department and the community are stakeholders who must preserve this area as a heritage for future generations,” Awang Tengah said on how to balance the management of the wetlands between conservation and ecotourism.
He revealed that in 2010, a total of 940 million people visited wetlands around the world.
The United Nation (UN) World Tourism Organisation predicted the figure would increase to 1.6 billion by year 2020,
Awang Tengah said numerous animal species like the proboscis monkeys, dolphins, fireflies and mangrove trees were the main attraction. He suggested visitors explore the park by boat.
Meanwhile Ali, in his speech, said KWNP was dominated by mangrove species: Avecennia, Rhizophora, Sonneratia and Bruguiera.
The wetland national park was gazetted the first Ramsar site in the state on Nov 8, 2005.
In August 2008, the state government commissioned Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) to conduct a multi-disciplinary assessment of KWNP for a description of the physical, biological and human environment of the area.
Following the study, a book on ‘Managment Planning of the KWNP — Ramsar Site’ was launched yesterday.