THE Kinta Nature Park, the third gazetted state park in Perak, was threatened by land encroachment recently.
On July 17, several members from the Perak branch of Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) discovered that parcels of land within the park have been cleared, believed to be for agricultural activities.
Forest rangers who patrolled the area also reported that land-clearing had taken place and the case was brought to the attention of the authorities.
“About four hectares of land have been cleared before we managed to put a stop to the activities.
“We believe the company involved wanted to plant crops on the land.
“A police report had been lodged on July 19,” said state Tourism, Arts and Culture Committee chairman Tan Kar Hing.
The Simpang Pulai assemblyman conduced a site visit at the park together with several other department officials, including representatives from the Perak MNS.
Following investigations, Tan said that a cooperative based in Batu Gajah had entered into a leasing agreement with another company claiming to be the landowner.
“According to the agreement, the company was to pay the cooperative RM7,200 per annum to lease the four hectares of land.
“The cooperative’s claim was untrue and the agreement was not valid and binding, because the Perak State Park Corporation, which manages the park, had never approved any company or agency to lease out the park’s land.
“That is why we have lodged a police report and I hope the police will take action against the culprits,” he said.
Tan noted that the state government had never granted any agency or company permit to lease any area in the park for commercial purposes, as it has been gazetted as a state natural treasure.
Kampar District Office senior settlement officer Zaini Hassan who was also present, said that the land, before it was cleared, used to have grass growing it.
“The soil is suitable to grow root vegetables such as turnips, sweet potato and corn.
“Following the discovery of this case, the operator has been ordered to vacate the land.
“If the case is brought to court, the operator could be fine, jailed, or both under Section 425 and Section 426 of the National Land Code,” he added.
Located 6km south of Batu Gajah, Kinta Nature Park is Perak’s third state gazetted park after Royal Belum and Pulau Sembilan.
Located about 40km from Ipoh, the park, consisting of 14 former mining ponds, was set up 18 years ago with the cooperation of the MNS and the then Kinta Barat District Council.
The 395ha park promises an enriching experience for bird watchers, as well as unique flora and fauna.
It is open to the public from 8am to 6pm daily and admission is free. Visitors can also enjoy activities such as birdwatching, cycling, camping and trail hiking.
The park was also mentioned as “the place to discover wild nature escapes” by travel guide Lonely Planet in its listing of Ipoh as the sixth best place in Asia to visit last year.
Tan noted that since the park opened on March 17, 2016, it has received a total of 1,995 visits as of April 30 this year.
He pointed out that the many access roads to the park and lack of fencing were some of the reasons why it was easily encroached.
Perak State Park Corporation general manager Asmah Mohd Nawawi, who was also present, said there were only two forest rangers that take turns to patrol the sprawling nature park.
“They patrol everyday covering different sections of the park, as it is a vast area to cover.
“We are understaffed and have requested that more forest rangers patrol the park,” she said.
Tan said he would look into this as funding was an issue.
“Last year, the state government allocated RM150,000 for the park’s upkeep.
“I will look into this and request for a higher budget so we can upgrade the infrastructure here,” he said.
Tan added there had been encroachment in terms of fishing and farming.
“Apart from installing fencing to prevent similar incidents, we will also beef up enforcement at the park with more forest rangers.
“Basic infrastructure such as the access road, gazebo, public toilet, electricity and water supply, lighting and road signs will also be gradually upgraded.”
Asked if admission rates may be charged following the upgrades, Asmah noted that the corporation actually had the approval to impose charges.
“However, we did not implement it as we were aware that the park needed to be improved further,”she added.
Meanwhile, on another matter, Tan noted that the temporary occupation licence (TOL) of four operators who ran duck farming and agriculture activities at the park would not be renewed.
“These operators had been running their businesses for about 20 years, way before the park was gazetted.
“Their TOLs were issued annually and the last one expired on December 31 last year.
“Since the park has been gazetted, we have decided not to renew the TOLs.
“Meetings are ongoing with the operators for alternatives and solutions to resolve the issue amicably and to everyone’s satisfaction,” said Tan.