KUANTAN: Nature lovers, environment NGOs and tour guides are calling on the authorities to protect the natural landscape surrounding the Merapoh caves in Lipis.
The network of caves in the Merapoh Forest Reserve has been promoted as a tourism product and a caving paradise in Pahang, over the past few years by various websites.
The cave paradise and its surroundings, said to be over 300 million years old, are popular for its precious limestone hills, various species of flora and fauna, as well as crystal clear streams and rivers.
The site became a hot topic when images of land clearing activities were posted on Facebook by tour guides in the past week showing some destruction to the trekking trails near the caves.
Tour guides sighted bulldozers clearing parts of the surrounding forests.
Save Merapoh Caves campaign founder Laili Basir called on the responsible parties to take immediate action to stop heavy machinery from entering the area.
He said the area was a wildlife sanctuary that harboured animals such as elephants, bears, tapirs and tigers as well as flora such as the Rafflesia.
Tour guide Mohd Syukri Jali said half of the trekking routes and streams were already destroyed by the land clearing activities.
“The caves are here and the surrounding forest is also a water catchment area for villagers.
“It is important to take into account that there are people living here and their economic activities may be affected by the land clearing activities,” he said.
He added that those concerned for the environment in the area had proposed a buffer zone to protect the tourist site.
Mohd Syukri said it was not possible for illegal logging and mining works to take place in the area as the land belonged to Pahang State Agricultural Development Corporation (PKPP).
It was reported too that the Pahang Forestry Department had denied that there was any logging or mining activities in the area.
Its director Datuk Mohd Paiz Kamaruzaman said PKPP had a permit to develop the land and had built a 1.2km trail in the area to transport forest products.