By Reinal Lauw
We only have one earth. Yet, pollution is still a big part of life on our precious earth.
State Welfare and Caring Society committee chairman Phee Boon Poh stated that increased local and interstate tourism has led to more tourist visits to Penang for its attractive forests and beaches. With more outdoor recreational regulars who look forward to the fitness exercises, more groups and clubs are using Penang’s forest trails for cycling, hiking, and camping.
“As Penang’s prominence as an ecotourism destination increases, we need all tourists to protect our natural areas so that these areas do not become polluted, vandalized, or destroyed because of our activities. As responsible users, we must be protectors of nature. We must take ownership of all these God-given treasures,” said Phee in his statement.
Apart from efforts initiated by Leave No Trace Penang to improve trailhead and junction signage, the Penang State Government and several volunteer groups have been working to promote awareness and urge each and every outdoor enthusiast to play their part in keeping the forests and beaches untainted.
The Penang State Government has urged the public to be mindful of general guidelines for responsible ecotourism:
Littering is considered the greatest sin, and anyone caught doing so will be imposed a RM2,000 fine. Destroying natural features such as trees, rocks and flowers that one encounters along the trail in the forest must be avoided. Most importantly, harming or poaching of animals and destroying wild plants will be seen as intentional disruption of environmental habitat.
Other than that, visitors or tourists are reminded to always make sure that no items are left behind when exploring or camping in wildlife areas. Additionally, they are expected to respect private properties as trespassing will not be tolerated while natural objects are not to be seen as canvas for spray painting, let alone leaving a trail of non-biodegradable materials like plastic as a final touch for a diorama.
In case of an event (racing, adventuring, and so on) being held it is highly recommended that all papers, plastics and ribbons be properly disposed of within a period of 24 hours after the event has ended. The visitors must refrain from starting open fires or garbage burning since this act may result in an unintentional spread of wildfire.
For those who are planning to camp for the night, designated camping zones are readily available for their use.
In case of creating new trails, one must obtain permission from the authorities first. Catchment areas are not to be tainted or polluted by relieving oneself or bathe in a stream.
The public is urged to not only abide by the above-mentioned guidelines, but also lodge a report with the authorities if they have spotted attempts at deliberate deforestation.
“We need to focus on the proper use of our natural resources to ensure our earth is preserved for all, including future generations. Together we can make a Cleaner, Greener, Safer, Healthier & Happier Penang,” added State Welfare and Caring Society committee chairman Phee Boon Poh.