GERIK, (Bernama) -- Malaysia's rainforest treasure trove, the Royal Belum State Park in Perak, is expected to be accorded recognition as a world heritage site within two years.
Pulau Banding Foundation (PBF) Chief Executive Officer, Dr Daniel Baskaran K., said the National Heritage Department, under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, has already prepared the dossier for submission to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
"Based on a very recent meeting we had with the ministry, the dossier is ready and is now in the stage of being sent to UNESCO," he said, adding that it contained an introduction to the Royal Belum State Park and the Malaysian government's request for UNESCO recognition.
"Once they agree to evaluate our request, the government will have to prepare the necessary documentation, with all the details, on why it wants the Royal Belum State Park to be turned into a world heritage site.
"Later, when UNESCO is in the midst of evaluating the documents we have submitted, it will send its team of scientists to Belum to validate our reports.
"It may take one or two years before the Royal Belum State Park is awarded world heritage status, depending on how long UNESCO's waiting list (of proposed sites awaiting recognition) is," he told Bernama during a recent media visit to property developer Emkay Group-managed Belum Adventure Camp on Pulau Banding, a man-made island located in the midst of Lake Temengor, which also serves as the gateway to the entire Belum-Temengor rainforest complex.
OLDER THAN AMAZON RAINFOREST
The PBF, a brainchild of Emkay Group Chairman Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal, promotes and performs research and studies on tropical rainforests.
The Royal Belum State Park, spread over 117,500 hectares (ha), is part of the 300,000ha Belum-Temengor complex, which is estimated to be more than 130 million years old, thus rendering it older than the Amazon rainforest in South America and Congo rainforest in Central Africa.
Other sites in Malaysia that have been declared as UNESCO world heritage sites are Melaka's historic city centre, George Town in Penang, Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak, Kinabalu Park in Sabah and the archaeological site in Lenggong Valley in Perak.
In May last year, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had urged the relevant agencies to consider whether the Belum-Temenggor rainforest could be recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Daniel Baskaran said over 100 scientists from various rainforest-possessing countries were expected to participate in an expedition to conduct research in the Royal Belum State Park in either October or November this year.
"We want to know more about what we have inside the jungle. Once the expedition is over, we will compile all the information (provided by the scientists) and build an inventory to prove that Belum is indeed rich in flora and fauna," he said, adding that an international conference was also slated to be held early next year.
CONTROLS ON VISITOR NUMBERS
The Royal Belum State Park hosts an estimated 3,000 species of flora, 64 species of ferns, 62 species of moss and 23 types of river fish.
It is also the home of the world's most threatened mammals, such as the tiger, Malayan sun bear, Sumatran rhinoceros, white-handed gibbon, Malayan tapir and Asiatic elephant. Hornbills, usually associated with Sarawak, can also be found in abundance at the park.
Daniel Baskaran said PBF was happy to note that environmental sustainability and resilience was among the six thrusts of the 11th Malaysia Plan, which was unveiled by the Prime Minister on May 21, adding that it would benefit the Royal Belum State Park and may even encourage non-governmental organisations to assist in forest conservation.
He said efforts were also being made to attract more tourists and visitors to Belum.
"Belum is still relatively new in the sense that it only started receiving visitors in recent years. Long ago, it used to be a 'black' area and people were prohibited from coming here due to the danger posed by the communists. Of course, things have changed now," he said, adding that unlike Taman Negara in Pahang, only certain parts of Belum were open to the public due to issues pertaining to conservation and preservation.
"We don't want an uncontrolled number of visitors as we don't want to disturb the flora and fauna in Belum," he said.
It was reported that some 13,207 tourists visited the Royal Belum State Park in 2013, an increase from 11,033 the year before.
The PBF is now touting the setting up of adventure camps in Belum to draw the young crowd, so that they can discover the wonders of nature and the importance of conserving and preserving forests.
The Belum Adventure Camp, which was opened last year, can accommodate 30 people and it offers experiential learning, through which guests are given an insight into how the ecosystem works and how they can contribute to the environment and society once they get back home.
"It's unfortunate that our younger generation don't really appreciate the nation's rich natural heritage," lamented Daniel Baskaran, adding that the youth should develop utmost respect for the nation's rainforests and do all they can to protect them.