MIRI: Malaysia’s first non-capital city, Miri, started the first day of the new year and ‘Visit Sarawak Year 2019’ campaign with the soft launch of an Interpretation Centre at Piasau Nature Reserve (PNR), which is also the Sarawak’s first community-oriented nature reserve.
Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin was given the honour to officiate at the function, which was held as part of the new year gathering coordinated by Piasau Camp Miri Nature Park Society (PCMNPS).
The society is one of two non-governmental organisations, apart from Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) that had been instrumental in drumming up public support to get the government to convert the former residential area of Sarawak Shell into a nature reserve on Dec 31, 2013, in less than three months, the fastest in the history of gazetting nature reserves and national parks in Sarawak.
Among over 100 people came including Miri MP Dr Michael Teo and former Sibuti MP Datuk Ahmad Lai Bujang, Piasau assemblyman Datuk Sebastian Ting who is also PCMNPS chairman, Miri District Officer Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusuf, senior SFC officials led by their chief executive officer Zolkipli Mohamad Aton.
MNS Miri chapter chairman and deputy chairman of PCMNPS Musa Musbah, PNR warden Louis Velda, community leaders and PCMNPS members were also present.
Lee urged Sarawak Forestry Corporation to be at the forefront in ensuring that the PNR is a must-visit place and a continued success story of community-based urban park.
“The Sarawak government has allocated RM2 million for PNR while Sarawak Shell and Petronas each allocated RM5 million. We need more fund to increase facilities at the nature reserve, and SFC ought to come up with a working paper for the purpose,” said Lee.
He also suggested that SFC conduct international conference on urban park at the centre to boost its image, befitting its status, a historical nature reserve and also the biggest urban park in Sarawak.
Lee, who is also Senadin assemblyman, assured that his ministry would assist in funding the conference and to rope in Sarawak Convention Bureau.
Lee also called for concerted efforts from all in making PNR a truly success story of community-based urban park situated in the city centre. The park also boasts a rich biodiversity of 1,079 species of flora and fauna, particularly the famous and totally protected hornbill species – oriental-pied hornbill.
Lee said despite the facilities having not been fully completed, the PNR had attracted a total of 1,082 visitors from UK, USA, France and China, among others, in the first 11 months of last year.
Earlier in his welcoming speech, Ting thanked the Sarawk government, Shell, Petronas, SFC, and all concerned for their continuous support in making PNR a reality.
He said one of the activities organised by the society was the monthly Hornbill Walk, whereby as of December 2018 a total of 62 walks had been carried out since it was first started on Jan 5, 2013.
He encouraged the public to take part in the walk on every third Saturday of the month, at 4.30pm, while the next activity will be the annual dinner.
Ting was optimistic that once all the facilities are made available, PNR will become an important attraction for both locals and tourists alike, including researchers and urban park developers.