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Piasau Nature Reserve to get timely boost

MIRI: The ecological and aesthetic values of the community-based Piasau Nature Reserve (PNR) here will be given a boost with the implementation of the ‘Bring Back Rainforest Development Plan’.

Under the plan, a total of 10,000 trees of various species will be planted in the next three years. It is projected that within 20 to 30 years the forest will become a rainforest, thus auguring well to make it one of the premier nature reserves in the region.

Head of State Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud is expected to launch the ‘Bring Back Rainforest Development Plan’ at the reserve in conjunction with his official birthday on Sept 11. Mirians and others from all strata of society will plant 1,000 trees on that day.

How has the local community and the relevant agencies responded so far towards the various stages of the project and what is the success rate?

To answer these questions, thesundaypost obtained details from Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) that implements and manages the project. Views of several members of Malaysian Nature Society (Miri Chapter) who have volunteered in constructing the community trail there were also gathered. Among those interviewed was the chapter’s chairman, Musa Musbah, who is also vice chairman of the Special Park Committee.

“So far, the public and corporations here have been very responsive. For the ‘Bring Back Rainforest Development Plan’ from March alone we have Naim Cendera collaborating with us in planting 60 trees, Sarawak Tourism Board in conjunction with Borneo Jazz Festival in May and last month Dayang Enterprise and Miri City Council collaborated in planting 100 trees,” the SFC statement stated.

Other corporations like Sarawak Shell also responded to the ‘Tree Adoption Programme’ of RM50,000 per plot (whereby22 trees can be planted) for corporations, while individual sponsorship per tree is RM3,000. The sponsor’s name will be placed next to the tree.

Support from non-governmental organisations too is very encouraging and among those that have come forward are MNS Miri and Piasau Camp Nature Park Society – both ardent advocators of the nature reserve.

Yesterday, 30 MNS members led by Musa constructed the community dirt trail while over 100 society members led by Karambir Singh did similar trail last Saturday.

The 800-metre trail is part of facilities which the public can volunteer to set up and later incorporate other facilities like benches, shades, bridges and flower gardens.

According to SFC, others who have indicated their willingness to volunteer in the nature reserve are Piasau Boat Club, Miri Golf Club, students of Curtin University Sarawak, and also the nearby villages – Pulau Melayu,  Pengkalan Lutong and Piasau Utara.

Under the ‘Bring Back Rainforest Development Plan’, various species of ornamental plants, herbs and trees like meranti, kapor, belian and also figs the favourite fruit of hornbills are being planted.

Other components for the landscape restoration and conservation are plant nursery and community garden, establishment of trails (foot path, cycling, jogging) and park signage (along trail, tree names, park boundaries)

“All these are part of strategic plans to get back the trees at the reserve, formerly called Piasau Camp, a residential area for Shell staff,” the statement added

A random check at the nature reserve by MNS members and thesundaypost reporter, found that despite all the concerted efforts and support from the public, several ornamental plants and trees planted, including those planted by the head of state, were not doing very well.

“The nursery in particular is a disaster, many plants died probably due to little care including watering despite the existence of sprinklers. Speedy remedy needs to be carried out otherwise all efforts will be in vain,” said Musa.

Others suggested that SFC could be more innovative, like building the community trail by machines instead of them digging the ground which was time consuming.

There are also suggestions to allow NGOs like MNS Miri and PCMNPS having access to a house (P58) to monitor the hornbill nestling, which they have done over the years before SFC converted the house as their park ranger station.

Hornbills, which is among the totally protected species of bird in Sarawak, is among the reasons the government gazetted the 88.67ha PNR on Dec 31, 2013. Apart from ecological factor, aesthetic values were also taken into consideration due to its historical importance associated with the oil and gas industry since 1910.

PNR features 17 fauna species protected under the Wildlife Protection Ordinance, 45 bird species (including the iconic hornbills), three mammal species, five amphibian species, 12 reptile species, 10 butterfly species and 107 plant species

The next project besides ‘Bring Back Rainforest’ is to convert the former Tenby International School into a customer service and administrative centre complete with facilities like canteen.

Work on the project will start end of this year. It is  expected to be completed and open to the public within two years.

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