malaysian naturalist, december 2018
There have been plenty of calls to action, including in 2017, when the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and nine other NGOs urged that the whole Greater Ulu Muda Forest Complex covering 162,000ha be given permanent protection as a state park, similar to the Royal Belum State Park in northern Perak.
In October 2018, the state government announced that it would stop logging activities in the reserve as well as parts of other permanent forest and water catchment areas, which has been received well. The MNS Kedah Branch, however, is planning to take this a step further by exploring the area’s biodiversity, and in this way push towards greater protection of Ulu Muda.
MNS Kedah Chairman Lt. Col. (Rtd) Husamudin Yaacob highlights that the forest reserve feeds the Muda, Pedu and Ahning dams that together provide water in Perlis, Kedah and Penang, including for double cropping in the Muda Irrigation Scheme, which produces 45% of Malaysia’s total annual national rice requirement.
He says Ulu Muda is the last of the large forest reserves in the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia with unexplored biodiversity, which is why MNS has initiated a large-scale and long-term scientific expedition to ascertain the flora and fauna of this precious green space. The initiative was kicked off with a public forum and workshop on 29th January 2018 with the participation of government agencies, NGOs and members of the public.
With the initiative supported by agencies involved in the management of Ulu Muda, Husamudin says the next step is getting approval from the Kedah government, and buy-in from other sources and partners, based on MNS’s track record with similar scientific expeditions in Endau-Rompin (1980s) and Belum-Temengor (1990s).
He said a thorough, full-scale exploration, with experts and researchers from local universities and other research organisations for a period of two to three years, “will enable us to determine the potential value in ecotourism, sport fishing and conserving Ulu Muda as a national natural heritage park for Kedah.
“This is an important mission for determining the biodiversity of Ulu Muda and the best solutions for this area and Kedah, now and in the future.”