KUANTAN: Owners of the land being developed near the famous Merapoh limestone caves in Lipis have been told to find an alternative trail, following complaints that it is too close to the forest reserve.
Tourist guides are claiming that the caves are under threat from the clearing of the surrounding forest areas.
One guide, Mohd Syukri Jali, said half the trekking routes and streams were already destroyed by bulldozing works supposedly for new plantations, which started about a week ago.
“The land clearing work is now very close to the caves. We fear that the environment will be destroyed if there is no action from the authorities,” he said.
Mohd Syukri said the surrounding land belonged to Pahang State Agricultural Development Corporation (PKPP).
“The caves are within the area. The surrounding forest is also a water catchment area.
“We are asking for a buffer zone to be set up, to limit the deforestation because this area is a tourist attraction. PKPP can generate revenue while the locals can still go on with their economic activities. (It’s) not just opening one revenue stream and closing another,” he said.
The network of caves in Merapoh has been promoted as a tourist destination and a caving paradise by the state over the past few years.
Mohd Syukri said tourists would be disappointed to find that the Merapoh caves are not like what is being portrayed in the promotional materials.
On Monday, Bernama reported that the Pahang Forestry Department said there was no logging or mining activity in the Merapoh Forest Reserve. Its director Datuk Mohd Paiz Kamaruzaman said the logging activity was on land owned by PKPP and did not involve forest reserve land. The corporation has a permit to develop the land and has built a 1.2km trail in the area to transport forest products before developing the land, he said.
“The process of cutting the trail has been approved by the estate manager. The process does not involve the Forestry Department because no forest reserve land is involved,” he said.
He said the trail was made because it is the nearest access to the main road.
“So although it is outside our jurisdiction, we took the initiative to investigate and see the track for ourselves because we were worried it involved forest reserve land. We also met with the landowners.
“We have asked them to find an alternative trail, one that is further away from forest reserve land,” he said.