PETALING JAYA, 24 June 2021: The Global Environment Centre (GEC) expressed their strong support towards the recent proposal to nominate the Kuala Gula-Matang Mangrove Forest as Malaysia’s 8th Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar site).
Together with Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) and Friends of Kuala Gula Mangrove Forest (SHBKG), GEC welcomes the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources’ (KETSA) plan to work with the Perak State Government to submit the nomination bid1.
GEC Director, Faizal Parish described the move as timely since over the recent years, the mangroves along the coastline have been degraded and coastal erosion have increasingly become a serious concern. Following the 2004 tsunami, the government has taken action to support mangrove protection and rehabilitation and this effort should be recognised through designation of important mangrove areas under the Ramsar Convention.
The Kuala Gula-Matang mangrove forests are considered as one of the most productive wetland ecosystems in Malaysia and it has a well-established ecological, economic and cultural importance. The Matang Mangrove Forest is recognised internationally as one of the best managed mangrove forests in the world, having had a sustainable management plan for more than 100 years. The mangroves are extremely important for fisheries, which generate more economic value than forest products like poles or charcoal. The mangroves also absorb and store a lot of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which helps combat global climate change.
Malaysia acceded to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in 1984. The Convention’s mission is conservation and wise use of all wetlands through national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world. One of the three pillars of the Convention is to commit to designate suitable wetlands for the Ramsar List (of sites) and ensure their effective management. To date Malaysia has seven Ramsar sites, with an area of 134,182 hectares. The other two pillars of the Convention are: to work towards the wise use of all their wetlands and cooperate internationally on transboundary wetlands, shared wetland systems and shared species.
Faizal pointed out that the Kuala Gula mangrove forest, covering over 400 ha to the north of Matang, was previously badly degraded. But since 2007, these mangroves have been well taken care of by SHBKG, established by the local community in partnership with GEC. “Fourteen years on, the group has achieved tremendous success in restoring the degraded mangrove area in Kuala Gula and has been recognised by Perak State Government and State Forestry Department under the National Mangrove Tree Planting Programme and Suitable Species in the Malaysia Coast (Program Penanaman Pokok Bakau dan Spesies-spesies yang Sesuai di Pesisiran Pantai Negara),” he said.
Faizal highlighted that “this proves that community involvement plays a pivotal role in the success and sustainability of mangrove forest conservation and rehabilitation programme in collaboration with federal, state and local authorities”.
Joining GEC in applauding this positive development, SHBKG Chairperson Puji Astuti said: “From 2006 to 2020, more than 15,000 volunteers have joined our local community in planting 260,000 mangrove saplings in Kuala Gula to cover 90 hectares with the support of various partner organisations. It’s our sincere hope that recognition as a Ramsar Site will further boost our ongoing on-the-ground conservation efforts”.
She said Kuala Gula is one of the top 10 eco-tourism areas in Perak and is recognised as a Bird Sanctuary and Important Bird Area (IBA). “Hopefully this will also enable our communities here to enhance our efforts to grow the eco-tourism potential and in the post-pandemic era will help us generate income for our livelihoods as we optimise the resources and opportunities in a sustainable manner”.
In support of these, YSD Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Hajjah Yatela Zainal Abidin described the move to get Kuala Gula-Matang Mangrove Forest listed as the 8th Ramsar site as a significant milestone.
“We believe this will contribute immensely towards one of the foundation’s objectives of strengthening the community under SHBKG networks, establishing and promoting the local community’s initiatives in producing non-timber forest products, raising mangrove seedlings and replanting of mangrove saplings. This includes maintenance of mangrove saplings, patrolling and monitoring of the planted areas while instilling awareness on the importance of mangrove to address the climate change crisis.”
YSD’s three-year partnership with GEC on community-based mangrove conservation project, which took off in February 2020, is aimed towards strengthening sustainable management of mangrove and coastal resource as well as enhance community engagement and social enterprise towards increased livelihoods and long-term impact in Kuala Gula and Sitiawan in Perak.
Meanwhile, Faizal expressed hope that the nomination will pave the way for the following benefits for Kuala Gula-Matang mangrove forest:
- International recognition for work for protection and sustainable management of the site;
- assist in formalising the conservation status of the site which can result in increased conservation efforts and awareness of local community involvement in these forests mangrove forests and increase opportunities for funding for natural resource management within these forests;
- focus on the sustainable management and promote the wise use of mangroves resources;
- provide greater security for long -term management and protect coastal communities from future disaster risks;
- reassure and enhance the spirit of the locals to always be committed in protecting and conserving the environment; and
- develop sustainable ecotourism initiative and enhance the knowledge of the local people about mangrove conservation and
For more information on GEC’s conservation and sustainable mangrove forest management initiatives in Kuala Gula and other related projects, check out https://www.gec.org.my/index.cfm?&menuid=335.