Wednesday, December 7

Niah Caves in need of better infrastructure

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Abang Johari (fifth left in front row) at Niah National Park on Jan 14, paving the way for an infrastructure facelift pending Unesco World Heritage Site listing.

MIRI: Better infrastructure and a bridge across Niah River will enable more people, particularly the elderly and those with special needs, to visit the pre-historic Niah Caves and museum in the Niah National Park.

Rosey Yunus

In stating this, Assistant Minister of Women, Family and Childhood Development Rosey Yunus thanked Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg for approving the infrastructure upgrading project as part of the efforts to list Niah Caves as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

“The proposed upgrading of the present route to the caves, including the bridge across the river, will enable everybody, including those with special needs and elderly tourists, to get across the river to the museum and the caves,” she said.

Rosey, who is also Bekenu assemblywoman, said it had been the local community’s dream to open the Niah Caves to the world, to showcase the long history of mankind in this part of the world and the breath-taking view of the caves and the surrounding nature.

“Developing and upgrading the facilities to facilitate tourism while at the same time preserving the breath-taking beautiful and historical nature is important,” she added.

She welcomed the announcement by the chief minister on January 22 that the Sarawak government will not issue any quarry licence that will affect the limestone caves of Niah as it has proposed through the federal government to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to list the Niah Caves as a World Heritage Site in 2010.

The chief minister said this at the Stakeholders Consultation on the Proposed Forestry Policies in Kuching on Tuesday, stressing that Niah Caves has the potential to become a world attraction.

He visited the Niah Caves in Miri Division on Jan 14 and was briefed on the archaeological evidence of human settlement at the site 65,000 years ago, based on a joint research conducted by the Sarawak Museum Department and the University of New South Wales, Australia.

He decided to upgrade the facilities in Niah Caves while waiting for it to be listed as a World Heritage Site, saying this will draw additional tourism revenue to the state and resonates with the state’s forests and national parks management policy.

Niah Great Cave was inhabited by humans about 65,000 years ago, and the caves are the site of some of the oldest human remains discovered in Southeast Asia.

In the Painted Cave, ancient human figures drawn on the wall by prehistoric inhabitants watch over gravesites where the dead were laid out in boat-shaped wooden coffins.

The graves and artefacts of those ancient inhabitants have been carefully preserved for visitors to see.

Currently, Gunung Mulu National Park, which boasts the world’s largest natural cave chamber, is the only certified Unesco World Heritage Site in Sarawak since 2000 and the first in the country.