Friday, October 30, 2009

Horror!! Aliens Landed On Payar Island

M and I had nothing much to do on that day and decided to take a ferry down to Payar Island which is supposedly reputed to be the best coral reefs area in the West Peninsula Malaysia. Payar Island is the nearest getaway for cityfolks of Penang, Perak, Perlis and Kedah for snorkelling and diving.

Before we even got off the ferry, we were already put off by the operator's announcement on the timing for the sharks feeding. Instead of watching some sharks scavenging on the scrap food leftover by the tourists' lunch boxes, we decided to take a stroll.

We walked towards the other end of the boardwalk and we were shocked to see a few "alien aircrafts" have landed on the slope of the Payar Island hill.
Semi UFO or Half-golf ball looking chalet. Weird design when it is not even a golf resort.

Thru the "western and eastern wind", we came to know that the whole thing was supposed to be a resort built by by the former Kedah's head of government, Syed Razak bin Syed Zain Barakhbah. The resort was built and it was left abandoned before the operation started. The reasons could be due to strong opposition from other parties that were concerned about the environmental damage. Or possibly Syed Razak had a downfall.

So now that these existing structures are already in placed and what next? Well, since the state is under the new government, YB. Encik Mohammad Radzhi Bin Salleh, the Exco Tourism of Kedah state had approved the operation of 12-room resort. And the winner of the project taker is Raymond Foo of D'Coconut Resort. This information is taken from Langkawi's Marine Park Gets a Resort. You may also read from the comments that Raymond pledged to run the resort in a "green" way. How "green" can be achieved in this highly sensitive area? I'm afraid I'm a non-believer in a green resort. There would be some amount of impact and the only question is how much. What more can the impact do to a highly sensitive area like Payar Island.

Payar Island does not have vast flat areas. Behind the small beaches is the range of hill. That's why the stilted chalets were built on the slopes of the hill.

This is a high potential for sediment run-off during heavy rain and thus increasing sedimentation load on the corals. The increasing sedimentation load on the corals will lead to blocking off sunlight thus reducing the growth of corals.

Human waste will go down into the sewage tank below and eventually cause seepage into the underground. There is no sign of sewage or waste treatment area built. Looking at the geographical landscape of Payar Island, it is almost impossible to build one when there is a lack of flat areas. What if the tank is filled? Nutrients run-off from human activities will encourage algae growth and eventually competes with the corals for sunlight and living space. When corals die, it will be a domino affect, the marine fishes will eventually die.

Here are more hideous looking chalets:

We wonder if any recent an EIA was done for this project? Will our government care enough to do a thorough survey or health check on the corals before allowing the operation of this resort?

For further reports highlighted to the media: Letter to

Sadly, the jewel of Langkawi is willing to be sacrificed for the sake of making quick monetary return instead of conserving what is left on our west coast and not realising that the rice bowl of the islanders will eventually be broken.

Eventhough it was supposedly a low season on that day, look at the number of people on that beach. I wonder what will be like on high season... eeewwwww...

Other references:
1. Yusri Yusuf's Thesis on Payar Marine Park
2. WWF's Lim lee ching "Lim, L.C., 1998. Carrying Capacity Assessment of Pulau Payar Marine Park, Malaysia - Bay of Bengal Programme.
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Odonata or Something Else??

Check out Mandy's latest blog entry on this strange insect.

It looked like an odonata but it was some sort Fly. I have never seen such before. Or maybe I did and simply ignored it, taking it for granted.
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Kuala Gula Teeming with Birds and Wildlife (via Boat Cruise)

My apologies for being absent for three weeks. The apology is to myself for a start, at least. Besides the normal excuse of being extremely busy with work, I was away for five days at Kuala Gula Mangroves, Perak since Oct 19. This is my second visit to Kuala Gula for this year and a fantastic one.
We didn't get to go round the mangroves on a boat on the previous visit. On this second visit, we managed to hire a fisherman's boat with our chalet owner as our skipper for three hours on the third day. We set off before 8:00am and the tide was going out. The day was hot with blue sky.

Among the mangroves of Peninsula Malaysia, Kuala Gula is one of best spot to find assortment of kingfishers. Especially from October onwards, it is the beginning of the birds migratory season.

Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis). Common yet uncommon.

Stock-Billed Kingfisher (Halcyon capensis)

Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris) Eventhough this can be seen everywhere but it is still appealing. 

Black-Capped Kingfisher (Halcyon pileata)

Kuala Gula also have plenty of White Throated Kingfishers (picture not taken) in the inner land.  They usually can be found along the main road and perched on the cables or poles next to the palm oil plantation.

Coming together with these migatory birds are the egrets and herons.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) on the mudlflat

Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) wading.

Grey Heron (Andrea cinerea)

Other waders were Common Redshank, Common Sandpiper and Plover family. Then, there was a bird larger than the Great Egrets. We were so fortunate to see this one.

Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus) or known as "Burung Botak" in Malay.

And of course, the top predator bird - the Raptor:

Brahminy Kites (Haliastur indus). Juvenile on the left and Adult on the right.

Brahminy Kites are scavengers. Besides going for their own hunt, they are willing to wait for fishermen to haul up the net for assortments of seafood treats. One example can be seen here. 

Brahminy kites "natural" feeding. Wouldn't Langkawi can be a better place for eco-tourism if the relevant authorities would follow the example of Kuala Gula??

White Bellied Sea Eagles were around but not as frequent as Brahminy Kites and the Crested Serpent Eagle.

Besides the birds, there were other wildlife "treats" as well.

 A Long Tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) hunting for crabs on the mudflat at low tide. Can you spot her baby?

This family of reptile can be seen almost everywhere. This Malayan Water Monitor Lizard (Varanus salvator) here is enjoying its sunbathing moment. It was not bothered at all as we cruised past.

 A Mangrove horseshoe crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda) was caught by a fisherman and later was thrown back into the water. 

 Smooth Otters (Lutrogale perspicillata) swimming shyly away from us.

Eventhough the skipper told us that the population of Giant Mudskippers (Periophthalmodon schlosseri) had reduced in numbers, they still can be seen almost everywhere in Kuala Gula mangroves.

 Unidentified crab spewing out bubbles. I have no clue why is it doing that.

The unexpected treat was the DOLPHINS!! Our boat headed out of the tributary as we wanted to check out the opposite side. Thanks to the low tide on the other side, the skipper was cruising slowly at the river mouth. The river was still calm and it was quiet until I caught a glimpse of it.

 A dolphin's tail flipped over the still calm water.

 What dolphin is this? I need help to ID this dolphin. Its dorsal fin had a pink tip.

The three hour boat ride kept us busy looking thru the binoculars, jotting down notes and taking pictures. The wildlife here is simply awesome. The right timing did help us a lot. Because the tide was going out, this situation allowed feeding activity for the wildlife. On this day, 21st October 2009, the lowest tide was estimated to be slightly below 0.50m.

The abundance of wildlife in Kuala Gula owes itself to the minimum commercialisation for tourism. In return, the mangroves supplement great income to the livelihood of people in Kuala Gula. Most of the industries here are heavily dependent on the products from the mangroves such as shrimps, cockles, crabs and other sea related products.

  Flat short trees yet awesome

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Monday, October 5, 2009

There is Light at the End of this Long Tunnel

I was walking towards the stationery shop during the heavy downpour this afternoon. I was passing an eatery shop and then I started drooling over those "evil looking" curry puffs on the metal seive above the big wok with hot oil. Then something else caught my eyes. Brown paper bags!! Wow! I couldn't resist... I couldn't...
This may be an old story but this is my first encounter in Langkawi with a "goreng-goreng" trader using paper bags for takeaways instead of those light green small plastic bags. I have patronised this shop many times and they decided to opt the green way. Good on them!
If you are coming to Kuah town and graving for tasty curry puffs, take a drive to Persiaran Bunga Raya, Langkawi Mall and look for Pustaka Su Sian Yen (stationery shop). The eatery shop is "Kafetaria Ikhsan" which sells rice with selection of Malay dishes (nasi campur) is just next to the stationery shop. You can't miss it, it is just next to each other.
The young boy who sold the curry puffs even asked me if I can just do with the paper bag only. He did not even offer a plastic bag to put the paper bag with the curry puffs. Well done, kiddo!

These curry puffs packed in the paper bag did taste better, no "plastic" flavour. Also, the bag absorbed the extra oil.

This may be a common practise on the mainland, for example on Fraser's Hills, where the goreng pisang stalls are using paper bags for takeaways. I really hope more stalls on Langkawi would follow such example. Perhaps there are and I'm not aware of. If anyone here on this island do know of such stalls, please share with us. We would prefer to patronise stalls that are trying their best to be "Green".

Guess what? I'm seeing light at end of the long tunnel.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

They Created An Impact

They braved the mud, sand flies and took up the challenge of walking barefoot in the swamp. With a single mission, the aim was to plant a hundred mangrove seedlings in the polyethylene bags (poly bag). These young seedlings will be sitting in the bags for awhile until it is time to be released into the wild. At the meantime, there will be on-going TLC (tender loving care) tasks.

What that team had done was more than just planting the seeds into the bag. They created an impact to the environment. So, what does impact to the environment mean?

Most of us know the definition of impact and depends how is being used. In short, impact to the environment means having an effect to your surrounding. I like to use a ripple effect as a metaphor in relating to the impact to the environment.

Imagine droplet of water is dropped on to a calm pool or lake.
What will happen? It creates a ripple effect. Any action from a source will create changes to the surrounding or will create a reaction in others. Depending on the size of that droplet, the bigger it is the larger the ripple effect. Here is an example on how our daily life is a ripple affect.

From the day you were born, you have already made impact to the surrounding. You cried. The affect was noise pollution. Then baby diapers and all sorts of baby accessories have to be used and that will take up some space in the landfill. And so on as the human society continues to exist on planet Earth, the impact to environment continues yet this is unavoidable.

Nature has it's own way to heal itself. If the impact is minimal, the affect will reverse to its original state. If the impact is too much to cope, the effect will become irreversible. In another word, the surrounding has been destroyed from the impact of an action. Here is another example. Imagine 100 people walking into the rainforest on a trail as compared to a bulldozer on that trail. Both activities will have an impact to the environment. But which one has a bigger impact to the environment? And which one will create an irreversible affect?
So, back to our team of eco-planters that had created two impacts. They have stomped on the mudflat and may have crushed some of the microscopic creatures living on it. The impact was minimum that allowed the condition to be regenerated at a short period of time. The second impact was greater and is a positive impact. By planting more trees would mean expanding the forest and allowing more microscopic creatures to breed. The ripple affect will also include creating awareness to others.

In summary, there is no right and wrong in an impact to the environment. The ripples affect will still happen. The questions will be “How much? How big? Good or bad?” It is all up to us.

How is your ripple affect today?

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