Friday, August 8, 2008

Wetlands set to re-open soon - Star


THE Paya Indah Wetlands Sanctuary in Selangor will re-open on Nov 25, Selangor Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment Committee chairman Elizabeth Wong said during a recent working visit to the wetlands.

The date has been sanctioned by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry. Paya Indah has been closed since Feb 1, 2005 and was previously managed by the Malaysian Wetlands Foundation on behalf of the Federal Government.

Opening soon: Wong, Salman (centre) and Sepang Municipal Council deputy president Abdul Razak Jaafar admiring a bunting promoting the Paya Indah Wetlands.

Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) park superintendent Salman Saaban said the wetlands were located in the Kuala Langat district and covered 3,100ha, of which 450.67ha had been gazetted.

“Some of the threats faced by Paya Indah include the clearing of the forests nearby for housing and the dip in the water level within the water cells.

“The peat fires that occur are also keeping the birds away,” he said.

At a press conference later, Wong said the Selangor government had no intention of reviewing the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the previous state government and the ministry on Aug 1 last year.

The memorandum gives the Wildlife Department the responsibility for conserving and managing the wetlands for 30 years.

“We will work closely with Perhilitan to manage the park and aid its conservation efforts. We need better water management techniques and must identify the right type of trees to attract birds,” she said.

Wong, who also visited the North Kuala Langat Peat Fire Operations Room, was told the fire in several areas had been put out with only 63ha still burning out of the initial 130ha.

The fire on Sunday started in the 658ha of agricultural land between the North Kuala Langat Forest Reserve and Paya Indah.

“It was deliberately set by the landowner who wanted to clear the land to plant fruits.

“He will be charged under Section 29A of the Environmental Quality Act 1974 that carries a maximum fine of RM500,000 or a five-year jail term, or both,” she said.

“It is a serious offence because the land is close to Paya Indah and the forest reserve. The water level in the wetlands has already dropped.

“From a macro management point of view, we hope to find a way to close the ecologically sensitive area,” Wong added.

More than 200 firemen and government agency staff have been deployed to fight the blaze.

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