Kedah seeks Unesco Biosphere Reserve status for Sungai Merbok Mangrove Forest

SUNGAI PETANI: Kedah plans to gazette the 3,000ha Sungai Merbok Mangrove Forest as a Unesco world biosphere reserve, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir said today.

He said the state government would submit the application to Unesco in January 2016 after Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) researchers have completed a study.

"We want to control development in the area to strike a balance between development and environmental sustainability.

"This does not mean we are jeopardising the livelihood of the local people. Instead, we are seeking ways to use the natural environment while generating a reasonable income for the people through caged fish breeding, for example," he told a news conference.

Mukhriz said this mangrove forest was unique in the sense that it contained 42 of the 60 species of the world's mangrove, and also the "Eye of the Crocodile" species that was found only in four mangrove areas in the world.

Today, Mukhriz and Tanjung Dawai state assemblyman Datuk Tajul Urus Mat Zain took a boat ride on Sungai Merbok from the Semeling jetty to Tanjung Dawai and stopped over at Teluk Kedangsar.

Earlier, the mentri besar chaired a meeting on Unesco biosphere reserve at the Sungai Petani Municipal Council office, which was also attended by USM researchers and officers of the Department of Forestry.

Mukhriz said that to preserve the mangrove national treasure, the state government would restrict mangrove felling and request relevant quarters to reduce the speed of boats in the mangrove swamps to prevent erosion.

Meanwhile, USM Centre for Global Archaeological Research director Prof Datuk Dr Mokhtar Saidin said a dossier of research data had to be sent to Unesco for evaluation before the biosphere reserve status could be obtained.

The declaration of Unesco biosphere status for the mangrove forest would bring to Kedah biosphere tourists from around the world and provide for more sustainable development of the mangrove forest, he said.

"We are optimistic of securing that status," he said.

Tasik Chini in Pahang and the Crocker Range in Sabah enjoy Unesco biosphere reserve status, accorded in 2009 and 2014, respectively. — Bernama