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Monday, July 27. 2015
The Malaysian Karst Society (MKS) is a non-profit organisation formed to conserve the karst outcrops in Malaysia. Karst is landscape underlain by limestone which has been eroded by water through dissolution, producing various formations, these include the limestone hills and caves.
MKS organises trekking, climbing, caving and other karst related activities to generate interest and awareness in karst.
Monday, July 27. 2015
The STAR July 13, 2015
By TAN CHENG LI
Quarrying limestone hills not only mars the landscape but destroys a wild habitat. We really do not have to blast limestone hills to get materials for making cement. There is a whole lot more limestone deposits just below the ground in many old mining areas in Perak, which can be tapped instead. In fact, the cache of limestone in these places is six times more than what can be obtained from the hills, according to Ramli Mohd Osman, senior research officer at the Mineral Research Centre, an agency under the Minerals and Geoscience Department.
He says idle tin mining land can be good sources of limestone as much of the peninsula is underlain with the sedimentary rock. Of the 38,100ha of such land in Perak, he says 21,100ha have limestone reserves and these can yield 21 billion tonnes of the material. Ramli says extracting sub-surface stores of limestone is one way to stop the destruction of majestic limestone hills, which threatens plans to set up the Kinta Valley Geopark. Sprawling over 2,000sqkm in the Kinta and Kampar districts, the park is to be a showcase of the state’s geological heritage.
But even as Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir was announcing grand plans for the geopark, the karsts there continue to be blasted. There is an obvious conflict between the geopark and limestone quarrying. In the heart of the proposed geopark, there is extensive exploitation and gross defacing of the limestone hills of Gunung Terundum, Gunung Rapat and Gunung Lanno.
“The valley has become more like sites of massive destruction of limestone hills rather than sites of preservation of natural wonders of great heritage significance,” says Ramli, who heads the unit on rehabilitation of mines and quarries.
Sub-surface limestone quarrying is nothing new. Ramli says three companies which are already quarrying for limestone in old mining land in Perak – Tasek Corp in Kinta, Hume Cement in Kampar and Lhoist in Batang Padang – show it to be practical and economical.
From surveys with the companies, he found that the additional cost – because of assessments to locate the limestone deposit, depth and quality – is only marginally higher than quarrying limestone hills. “That is the cost we have to pay if we want to preserve limestone hills,” he says. As sub-surface quarrying can reach depths of 60m to 100m, the main concerns are drawing down of the water table and vibrations. So Ramli says there should be studies to determine the impact on the environment and nearby land-use activities, such as farming. He hopes his findings can help government agencies to encourage quarry operators to work on old mining land instead of karsts. “The quarrying sector in Perak will not be affected. The limestone reserve in idle mining land is sufficient to compensate the loss in exploitation of surface limestone,” he says.
Karsts are like islands of biodiversity – they support many endemic species due to their multitude of ecological niches created by different terrain such as fissured cliffs, cave chambers, streams and forests. The species found on karsts are also highly specialised as they have to adapt to the harsh environment there, which ranges from highly alkaline conditions to thin soil layers and fluctuating levels of light. In Peninsular Malaysia, 21% of 1,216 karst-associated plant species are endemic to the peninsula, and 11% are strictly confined to karsts.
The presence of rare species is not the only reason for preserving limestone hills, however. These outcrops serve other important ecological roles too, says Universiti Malaysia Terengganu conservation scientist Dr Reuben Clements. He says limestone hills capture rain which then replenishes groundwater. In Indonesia, quarrying led to water shortages in villages – in the absence of water storage in karsts, rain quickly flows into streams that empty into the sea.
Caves shelter bats that provide humans with important services such as pollination and pest control. “With no bats, we lose the ecosystem services from them as fruit tree pollinators and seed dispersers. In one study in Thailand, it was found that fruit trees further away from limestone hills have lower produce. If you lose limestone karsts, you lose the bat population and the quality of fruit trees decline.”
As bats prey on insects, they act as a biological pest control. In the southern United States, free-tailed bats protect the cotton crop as they feed on cotton bollworms. In Thailand, the wrinkle-lipped bat feeds on white-backed planthoppers, a major rice pest, and prevented rice losses of almost 2,900 tonnes per year.
NEED TO PROTECT KARSTS
Clements says laws to protect karsts are sorely lacking and many receive protection only because they happen to sit within national parks. To curb unnecessary limestone hill blasting, he says quarrying rates should be monitored and made more transparent. And we need to protect hills that harbour not only endangered species, but also functionally important ones.
The Natural Resources Ministry is urged to draw up a policy to protect limestone karsts. There is none currently and many karsts remain uncharted. Quarrying totally destroys the flora, fauna, geological features and archaeological artefacts, so it is important to ascertain that the hill to be quarried is of no value in these areas. New species are constantly found in limestone hills and they include the freshwater crab, Phricotelphusa hymeiri, named after caver Hymeir Kamarudin who collected the specimen from a limestone cave in Perlis.
“Yes, we need to exploit limestone for products such as cement and marble but only after scientific studies are completed,” says Universiti Teknologi Malaysia scientist Dr Maketab Mohamed. “All the hills should be classified and those which have high conservation value should be left alone. Those which do not can be considered for exploitation. Any blasting or destructive exploitation before scientific studies are done will probably cause extinction of endemic species without them being found and taxonomically classified.” Maketab, too, wants to see quarry operators mine underground limestone deposits but “unfortunately, most operators take the easy way out, exploiting the visible karst hills or the ‘tip of the icebergs’.”
Caver Hymeir Kamarudin says 80% of the country’s limestone resources is actually underground. “Most above-ground karsts are important for biodiversity, recreation and natural landscapes, and should be protected. The stuff that is not important is underground but that is not being looked at.”
The protem chairman of the newly-formed Malaysian Cave and Karst Conservancy says there has to be a national policy on limestone resources, to be adopted by the states. He says knowledge on limestone resources is spread out among research bodies, individuals and conservation groups and so, not easily available. Hymeir plans to seek government funding to pool the information in a database, which can be used to determine which karsts to protect. “We have to look at karst resources in a holistic manner. Now, we’re studying the hills only when there is a threat.” Since we are already protecting our forests, mangroves, coral reefs and mountains, it is time to do the same for limestone hills.
Friday, July 11. 2014
===================================================Lafarge’s encroachment into eco-sensitive areas causes alarm
by patrick lee
The STAR, Thursday March 5, 2015
PETALING JAYA: Quarrying at Perak’s Gunung Kanthan by cement giant Lafarge Malaysia has alarmed green groups, who say work has encroached close to “sensitive” areas. According to a source, a small hill within the limestone mountain’s southern area was cut down in January. He expressed concern that rocks from “Area B” where the hill was located would be strewn along the adjacent “Area C”, causing fears that quarrying there would follow.
Gunung Kanthan, which is home to many endangered species of flora and fauna, is divided into several sections with “Area C” and “Area D” located in the south. Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) president Henry Goh, who confirmed that quarrying had been conducted on the hill, cautioned that the removal of forestry there would have damaging effects on Area C and Area D. The Star previously reported the discovery of two new flora species in Area C, which is also home to nine species that are on Malaysia’s Red List of Endangered Plants. Goh said Lafarge Malaysia had assured him that both Area C and Area D would not be affected. He also claimed that temples embedded in or around the mountain had received evacuation notices. Goh said a biodiversity report by Universiti Malaya, commissioned by Lafarge Malaysia, had not been revealed.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has highlighted its concerns to Lafarge chairman Bruno Lafont in France. “We are concerned to learn that a road is being blasted immediately adjacent to Area C,” IUCN Species Survival Commission chairman Simon Stuart wrote in a Feb 13 letter. He stated that Google Earth images showed the forested valley next to Area C “is being filled with rubble”. It was learnt that Lafarge Malaysia had yet to meet the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) which wanted to preserve Areas C and D.
Speaking to The Star, Lafarge Malaysia vice-president Mariano Garcia maintained that Area C and Area D were out of the mining plans. He said the biodiversity report on Gunung Kanthan was completed before Christmas. Garcia said he did not know of the said evacuation notices, but said monks and temple staff had entered the quarry site and verbally abused his workers. He also said Lafarge Malaysia had been trying to meet FRIM to no avail. “It has been very difficult ... (FRIM) refuses to work with us,” he added.
Bloom is of a new species of plant discovered on Gunung Kanthan
Preserve all of Gunung Kanthan
New flora and fauna species found
The Star - Saturday February 8, 2014
by Tan Cheng Li and Isabelle Lai
PETALING JAYA: Botanists have discovered two new plant species and a new species of gecko within an undisturbed portion of limestone forest on Gunung Kanthan that many fear will be quarried in the near future.
Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) plant taxonomist Dr Ruth Kiew said the new discoveries were further proof that the area, known as Zone C of Gunung Kanthan, near Ipoh, has critical conservation value.
Kiew said they had found a diminutive herb with purple flowers (Gymnostachyum nov) from the Acanthaceae family, and a tree (Vatica nov) from the Dipterocarpaceae family.
“In addition to these two new species, Zone C is also home to nine species on Malaysia’s Red List of Endangered Plants. They are in danger of extinction,” she told The Star.
Kiew said the find was made during one of several plant surveys last year in Zones C and D at the southern portion of Gunung Kanthan to compile a complete record of all plant species there.
Botanists also suspect that the critically endangered Paraboea vulpina of the African Violet family had gone extinct on Gunung Kanthan due to quarrying in the northern portion of the mountain.
The plant was recorded there by the Malaysian Nature Society in its 1991 study, and with its extinction at Kanthan, only two other population sites on other limestone hills remain.
American herpetologist Dr Lee Grismer, who had led a group of local and foreign biologists in surveys of the area last July, has also discovered a new species of gecko there.
Named the Gua Kanthan bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus guakanthanensis), the 7cm-long lizard bears five dark bands on its body and seeks refuge in cracks on the limestone walls.
Grismer said the species appeared to be restricted to the hill, as it was not seen in nearby limestone hills. This makes it the second endemic fauna species in the area, besides the
trapdoor spider Liphistius kanthan.
Perak hills open to destruction, say experts
The Star - Saturday February 8, 2014
PETALING JAYA: Currently, none of the hills in Perak have been gazetted for protection although conservation of the state’s limestone hills has been incorporated into the Ipoh Local Draft Plan 2020 and the Perak Structure Plan 2020.
“We strongly support Ipoh Mayor Datuk Roshidi Hashim who called for 16 prominent hills to be preserved and protected in May last year. The first is Gunung Kanthan,” said Forest Research Institute of Malaysia botanist Dr Ruth Kiew
Dr Lee Grismer, renowned in the scientific fraternity for his discovery of several species of frogs, lizards and snakes in Malaysia, said the hills should not be quarried so as to protect the newly-discovered species.
“These findings add to our other work in limestone areas throughout Malaysia;
that these regions, overlooked by terrestrial biologists, are areas of high biodiversity,” said the biologist from La Sierra University in California.
“As with plants and invertebrates, limestone forests are proving to be significant areas of high herpetological endemism and should be afforded special conservation status rather than turned into cement.
“We have only explored approximately 2% of these formations and their associated forests, and anticipate that tens of additional new species will eventually be discovered as exploration continues,” wrote the scientists when publishing their gecko finding in the journal Zootaxa, where Grismer also jointly described a new species of rock gecko that is found only on Pulau Bidong, Terengganu, named Cnemaspis bidongensis.
Lafarge Malaysia Bhd, which is currently extracting limestone from Zones A and B for cement production, is conducting its own studies in the area, with its Kanthan plant manager Sekar Kaliannan
saying last year that initial studies of Zone C indicated it “does not contain sensitive biodiversity”.
The Lafarge-commissioned a biodiversity study of Zones C and D, which was done by a team from
Universiti Malaya’s Institute of Biological Sciences led by Prof Dr Rosli Hashim, together with Lafarge’s International Bio-diversity Panel (IBP).
Sekar said the results of the study were expected to be made known to the public by March.
“The findings will be presented to our top management in France and to Lafarge’s IBP, before it is shared with the Perak state government,
media and other stakeholders,” he said.
Wednesday, July 17. 2013
Rock gecko faces down Singapore cement company
28 Feb 2014
The STAR Tuesday July 16, 2013
Rare finds on outcrops
By TAN CHENG LI
Botanists uncover a flora treasure trove in Merapoh hills.
THE drive along Federal Route 8, or the Gua Musang Highway, in Pahang, is a rather scenic one. Towering over the expanse of oil palm estates, which are broken up in parts by rural kampung and lush forests, are majestic-looking limestone outcrops.
Some 20 limestone karsts – some people say it is at least 30, as not all are shown on maps – are scattered along the road stretching from Chegar Perah to Merapoh in the district of Lipis before the land inches into Kelantan territory. The karsts are highly visible as one makes the drive but surprisingly, they are completely unknown from a botanical viewpoint.
“We looked for data and found no record of the plants there. None of the limestone hills have been botanically explored before. For us, it’s a botanical blank on the map of flora,” says Dr Ruth Kiew, a plant taxonomist at the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM).
And so, when her team converged on the hills around Merapoh, there were plenty of interesting discoveries – there were rare, endemic plants, and even an undescribed one. At Gua Gunting, the hill which will be quarried, they recorded over 200 plant species in just two days. This is hardly surprising as limestone hills are known for their rich plant diversity.
Peninsular Malaysia’s limestone hills cover only 0.3% of the land area but are home to 14% of her plant species. Unfortunately, none of the limestone hills in Merapoh are protected, and hence, are at risk from wanton development. The FRIM team made two trips this year, where they surveyed five hills.
“From what we have found so far, it’s a unique place as the flora on each hill is so different. This is unique from my experience of working in Malaysia,” says Dr Kiew, a leading authority on limestone flora. “I expected the flora to be an extension of limestones from Gua Musang (in Kelantan), so I was surprised that the hills are so different and we’re picking up unexpected things.”
One such instance is the discovery of Pararuellia sumatrana var. ridleyi which is previously known only from Batu Caves, Selangor. Pararuellia sumatrana var. ridleyi was thought to grow only in Batu Caves, Selangor, but was recently found in Merapoh.
Another important find is that of a balsam, Rhynchoglossum obliqua, previously known only from Gunung Tupus (at Chegar Perah, south of Merapoh) and another undisclosed site. FRIM scientists failed to locate the plant at Gunung Tupus, now surrounded by oil palms, and believe it has become extinct there.
“This is just one indication of what can happen. If limestone hills are surrounded by oil palms and there is burning to clear the land, that will destroy the flora. If the hills are not protected with a buffer, then it is easy for species to become extinct.”
The Merapoh hills also harbour species of fern, begonia and balsam that grow only on limestone. The scientist also found the Pandanus irregularis which is endemic to Peninsular Malaysia and grows only on the summits of limestone hills.
Some other finds:
> Spelaeanthus chinii – Endemic to Pahang, it was previously known only from Taman Negara and another hill in Lipis.
> Zippelia begoniifolius – Known from only three collections, the last one in the 1930s.
> Monophyllaea musangensis - Previously known only from Gua Musang, Kelantan.
> Tridynamia megalantha – Last collected in Perak in the 1880s.
> Calciphilopteris alleniae - A rare endemic fern known only from five limestone hills.
> Cleisostoma complicatum – This is the third locale for this orchid which is found in Pahang for the first time.
These are just the preliminary findings; the botanists have bags of specimens awaiting analysis and they intend to make more trips to Merapoh.
“We’re just scratching the surface as we’ve only surveyed five hills. We need to survey all 20 hills to document the plants and see which is critically important for conservation because of rare and endangered species. Limestone hills have a lot of micro-habitats. For instance, at the foothills you get plants suited to damp conditions. On the rock face, there are other types of flora and at the hilltop, you get plants which are exposed to the sun. So, you must survey all habitats to get a complete list of the flora,” says Dr Kiew.
She adds that surveys of fossils, micro-snails and cave fauna are also needed to determine the importance of the hills for wildlife. Preservation of the caves is important, she adds, as they can be part of the Sungai Yu wildlife corridor, a stretch of forest that is important for connecting Taman Negara and the Main Range, the country’s two largest forest complexes.
The STAR Wednesday June 12, 2013
Merapoh ‘cave paradise’ under threat
By NIK NAIZI HUSIN
KUALA LIPIS: Pahang could lose its “cave paradise” which includes at least 85 precious limestone hills and dozens of rare species of flora and fauna should a planned big-scale cement production project in Merapoh, near here, get under way.
“If the cement production project is given the green light, these precious limestone hills and trees will be gone forever. In addition, the crystal clear water in the rivers and streams in the surrounding areas will also be affected. The various species of fish, like the protected ikan kelah and sebarau, will also vanish,” state Tourism and Culture Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Sharkar Shamsuddin said yesterday.
Mohd Sharkar said that various species of flora and fauna spotted there by nature lovers were rarely found elsewhere in the world. Merapoh is also famous as the second gateway to Gunung Tahan, the highest mountain in peninsular Malaysia, aside from Kuala Tahan in Jerantut. He said that there had been studies, including those conducted by researchers from Croatia and Australia, on the uniqueness of the caves. He added that only 85 caves had been explored, saying efforts were under way to explore the remaining 415 caves there.
“We need to gather feedback from all quarters and carry out a thorough study before deciding,” he said, adding that he would raise the issue at the next state executive council meeting.
On the proposed project, Mohd Sharkar, who is Lanchang state assemblyman, said he had little information except that it would last for about 100 years and cover over 243ha.
He added it was still in the planning stages and no blasting work had been carried out.
Wednesday, June 26. 2013
The STAR Monday June 24, 2013
Proposed Geopark will affect quarry operations, says trade association
By EDMUND NGO
THE setting up of the proposed Kinta Valley Geopark in Simpang Pulai will affect the eight quarries operating around the area, according to Perak Quarry Association. Association president Chong Sook Kian said the geopark could cause the quarries to cease operations, affecting 400 employees there.
“Other than the direct employees, there are also three times that number of indirect employments, such as lorry drivers, whose livelihoods will be affected if the quarries close down. The association is not against the idea of setting up a geopark but we felt that Gua Tempurung is a more suitable location compared to Simpang Pulai,” he said in a press conference on June 17.
Last year the State Minerals and Geoscience Department had presented a paper proposing to turn 16 limestone hills into geopark, sites, which would be similar to the one in Langkawi. Although there was verbal agreement to establish the geopark the final decision will only be made when the matter is brought to the state executive council.
Chong said Gua Tempurung was a more suitable site as the surrounding area was untarnished by human activities, which would be instrumental in the state government’s efforts to gain Unesco Heritage site status for the geopark. “The quarries at the site have been operating for 20 years so we hope to engage the state government and other stakeholders before the geopark is set up,” he said.
Apart from the geopark, Chong said the association also hoped the state government would reconsider the new export royalty rate, which would come into effect on July 1. “We were briefed that the state government has gazetted the amendment to increase the export royalty for limestone from RM2 per metric tonne to RM7 per metric tonne, while for granite, it has been increased from RM1.80 per metric tonne to RM5 per metric tonne. The last increase was made in 2001 and we felt that the increase this time was too significant."
“Furthermore, granite quarries, which are located in Manjung, face stiff competition from Johor and other countries in exporting the rocks to Singapore. The royalty increase will add to their operating costs and put them at a disadvantage,” he said. Chong said the association presented a memorandum to Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and the state Land and Mineral Office, hoping that they could reconsider the increase. “We are suggesting that the limestone export royalty tax be increased to RM5 per metric tonne while the granite export royalty tax to stay the same as the granite industry is facing strong competition,” he said.
Friday, June 21. 2013
Kinta Valley Geopark
The STAR, Tuesday June 11, 2013
A quarry in the Kinta Valley Photo by Saiful Bahri
Saturday, March 10. 2012
Gua Tempurung to be gazetted