More than just a gotong-royong

Students and teachers making sure every bit of rubbish is collected during the World Wetlands Day 2020 celebration at Kuala Muda on the mainland.

SOME 80 volunteers comprising students and teachers from eight schools in Penang embarked on a gotong-royong to clean up the beach at Kuala Muda near Kepala Batas on the mainland.

During the three-hour activity, the volunteers collected a total of 150kg of rubbish, with 21kg being damaged fishing nets.

The event was jointly organised by Seberang Prai City Council (MBSP) and Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) in conjunction with World Wetlands Day 2020 celebration at Kuala Muda, north Seberang Prai recently.

MBSP councillor Tan Choo Eng said it was the first time that the event was held in Kuala Muda, where the famous ‘whispering fish market’ is located.

He said apart from the beach cleaning programme, the other activities included bird-watching and the launch of the poster ‘Waterbirds and Shorebirds of Penang’ by Teluk Air Tawar assemblyman Mustafa Kamal Ahmad and fellow MBSP councillor Siti Shahanis Md Sharif.

Also present was MBSP Tourism, Arts and Heritage unit director Mohd Rizal Abdul.

Mustafa Kamal, in his speech, said that the mangrove stretch between Teluk Air Tawar and Kuala Muda needed to be protected as it is an important breeding ground for commercial fish species, as well as an important source of income for the fishermen.

He added that there were ongoing plans with MBSP to develop and promote eco-tourism in Teluk Air Tawar, including the setting up of a water sports centre.

Dave Bakewell from MNS guiding the students on the use of the telescope to watch birds.Dave Bakewell from MNS guiding the students on the use of the telescope to watch birds.

He said he was aware that thousands of migratory shorebirds visit this area during the northern hemisphere winter.

He also suggested that it would be good if the ‘berembang’, a mangrove tree species, could be planted in the area so as to attract fireflies there and make a new tourist attraction.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) senior lecturer Dr Foong Swee Yeok spoke about the importance of preserving mangroves and the adjoining mudflat as a nursery and breeding ground for many commercially important fishes, for coastal protection and water quality improvement.

She also highlighted the crucial role these natural habitats played in the ecosystem.

MNS Penang branch advisor Kanda Kumar, who worked in Kuala Muda from the mid-80s till his retirement, said he had been observing the number of shorebirds and waders in the area.

He said he had also previously documented the effect of the tsunami of 2004, which included fishing boats tossed on the road at the nearby Jalan Sungai Abdul.

“There are at least eight species of threatened birds in this area, ” he said.

The event was coordinated by Dr Nur Munira Azman of Shorebirds Peninsular Malaysia Project (SPMP), a Penang-based NGO, and The Habitat Foundation.

SPMP was initiated by Dr Nur Munira and her team from USM School of Biological Sciences in 2017.

The project focuses on the monitoring of migratory shorebirds along the Teluk Air Tawar-Kuala Muda coast.

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