JOHOR BARU: The federal government wants Pulau Kukup to remain as a national park after its degazettement by Johor last week sparked public outcry and a move by the Mentri Besar to explain it today.
Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar said this was the decision made during the Cabinet meeting on Friday.
He said the move to change Pulau Kukup’s status from that of national park to Sultanate land might affect Malaysia’s reputation internationally in preserving biodiversity.
“The change in status of Pulau Kukup will definitely have an effect on its recognition as an area of international interest as well as Malaysia’s reputation as a country which takes care of biodiversity.
“The public also generally supports the idea of maintaining the national park status of the island as this will better ensure the ecosystem of the area for its international significance and future generations,” he said in a statement here yesterday.
On Thursday, Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim had tweeted a letter from the office of the Johor Sultan’s Private Secretary to the state Land and Mines Office that made clear Pulau Kukup’s status as a national park.
According to the letter, Pulau Kukup, the world’s second largest uninhabited mangrove area, will remain a national park despite its status being changed to Sultanate land.
Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian is expected to answer his critics on the final day of the state assembly meeting today.
The island, said Dr Xavier, had over 18 species of mangroves, with an ecosystem that could rarely be found and was under the threat of extinction.
“Pulau Kukup has been identified as a stop for migratory birds and shelter as well as a breeding place for threatened animals such as burung botak (storks), bangau cina (Chinese egret) and pacat bakau (mangrove pitta).
“It is also a resource for fish and aquaculture. It is home to an invaluable biodiversity treasure for the country as well as for the state of Johor and any failure in managing the area can lead us to lose these treasures for good,” he said, adding that such a move might also affect efforts to acknowledge Mersing as a national geopark.
Malaysian Nature Society vice-president Vincent Chow said the priority was to ensure that the wetlands would continue to be protected – be it as a national park or a Sultanate land.
“We want to support the move of making Pulau Kukup a Sultanate land wholeheartedly, but how would we know if it is something worth supporting if the state government does not explain to us what it actually means?
“The state government needs to let Johoreans know how the change will impact Pulau Kukup, including if it will retain its position as a Ramsar site,” he added.
Ramsar sites are wetland sites designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar convention, a UN environmental treaty.
Concerns were raised on social media that the state authorities would cancel the whole area as a national park under subsection 3(3) of the National Park Environment Enactment (Johor) 1989.