WE appeal to the Perak state government to review the permit to quarry Zone C within one of the geo-sites in Kinta Valley National Geopark, Gunung Kanthan, which is the largest and most extensive peak remaining of the Kanthan iconic karst complex.
As a natural monument, its majestic vertical white cliffs personify Gunung Kanthan. Quarrying Zone C will destroy this magnificent landscape permanently, reducing it to a flat lifeless quarry site. Surely this is against the principles of designating geopark status?
Geoparks protect not only geological features but also biodiversity and fossil deposits and aim to benefit local stakeholders. Zone C is documented internationally as a site with high plant biodiversity not found anywhere else in the world.
Additionally, it is the type locality for several new species never before discovered. Moreover, the limestone plants are commonly restricted to a given karst hill and to a particular microhabitat. This is in fact the reason that numerous species can be found on such small areas and only on singular hills.
Furthermore, Zone C includes the only remnant of limestone forest in Perak, an endangered habitat that is a refugia not only for large trees, birds, reptiles and frogs but also a population of the endangered Capricornis sumatraensis, also known as the serow or kambing gurun.
We fully recognise the need for cement to support development projects, particularly for the housing industry of which the project proponent is a leading player, as well as the importance of revenue for the state government. With the role of geoparks in boosting tourism, it is timely to seriously consider subsurface mining for which there is a huge supply of limestone and will not scar the limestone karst hills and endanger Perak’s natural heritage.
In fact, subsurface mining has been advocated by the Perak Geology Department. The previous quarry owners, Lafarge Malaysia Sdn Bhd did in fact commission Petronas University to conduct a feasibility study on this. The results were presented at an international conference in Kuala Lumpur in 2020, and showed subsurface mining is indeed feasible.
We therefore appeal to the state government to take a holistic view of geoparks and to take into account not only their unique geology but also their multiple values as natural arks, for their bio- and geo-diversity and cultural values. Caves are sacred places in the Hindu and Buddhist religions and there are several religious sites in Zone C.
Gunung Kanthan is the spectacular northernmost limestone hill in the Kinta Valley. We appeal to the state government to reconsider quarrying Zone C and instead consider the possibility of subsurface mining. Translocation and rehabilitation of endangered and endemic karst plant species are often suggested as a mitigating measure. However, in practice, there have never been any successful examples in the long-term.
Limestone hills take millions of years to form but bulldozers and explosives can cause irreversible damage in just a few hours. It should not be overlooked that sustainable tourism, both local and international, would be a growing market. There is no reason why Perak should not be marketed as the Guilin of Malaysia, with its temple caves and ecotourism potential for caving and rock climbing, and also for its flora, fauna, cave ecosystem, iconic landscape, and cave temples. – July 5, 2021.
*Zubaid Akbar Mukhtar Ahmad is Malaysian Cave and Karst Conservancy president.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.