GEORGE TOWN: Efforts to get Penang Hill and its surrounding areas declared a Unesco biosphere reserve are in the final stage, says Cheok Lay Leng (pic below).
The Penang Hill Corporation general manager said paperwork for the application would be handed over to the Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry by next month, ahead of the September submission deadline.
“The Penang Hill Biosphere Reserve will encompass 20% of Penang island, covering Penang Hill as a central park, Teluk Bahang National Park and Marine Park, as well as Penang Botanic Gardens. It is equivalent to 12,841ha of land.
“We have defined the core zone, buffer zone and transition zones clearly, and areas that need to be preserved,” Cheok told reporters after launching the Penang Hill Festival yesterday.
He said a team of researchers had spent two years conducting the necessary studies.
According to the Unesco website, biosphere reserves are areas comprising terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each reserve promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.
At present, Unesco’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves lists 669 in 120 countries, including 20 transboundary sites.
Malaysia has two biosphere reserves – Tasik Chini and the Crocker Range.
Cheok said Penang Hill, if granted the status, would serve as a central green lung to the island, where sustainable economic activities facilitate conservation efforts, and vice versa.
Among future plans is the setting up of a rainforest research centre on the hill, he said.
He added that the Penang Hill Biosphere Reserve project would benefit about 3,000 to 4,000 visitors on weekends and up to 13,000 on a festive holiday.
Meanwhile, on the inaugural Penang Hill Festival, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, who was also present, said it was meant to attract both locals and tourists to learn about Penang Hill’s natural wonders, which had thrived since 130 million years ago.
At the ceremony, Chow also planted the Malaysian witch hazel (maingaya malayana) at the hill’s peak to promote conservation of the rare tree.
The festival, themed “See the Nature. Feel the History”, is being held until July 29.
There are guided walks along the Moniot Trail and Viaduct Trail, talks on the hill’s history and rich flora and fauna heritage as well as a photo exhibition.
Those interested in astronomy can witness a lunar eclipse and opposition of Mars occurring together on July 27 at Bellevue Hotel.
The first ever Music on the Hill East Meets West, dedicated to Penang Hill’s cultural heritage, will be held on July 28.
For more details, visit http://www.penanghill.gov.my/phf2018/index.php/en/.