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LETTER | Land clearing at Batu Caves a threat to biodiversity

LETTER | We read with grave concern the recent report in the press that highlighted land clearing and excavation works (photo, above) at Batu Caves which threaten the integrity of the iconic limestone hill, its biodiversity and geology.

For more than 50 years, concerned NGOs have been calling for Batu Caves to be not only legally protected but its protected status enforced. This new project illustrates the urgent need for a holistic approach to the management of Batu Caves.

Batu Caves is renowned globally as a tourist destination. It is also an important habitat for thousands of bats which have been scientifically proven to be the most effective pollinators of durian flowers. 

An article mentioned that in 2018, Malaysia exported around 23.4 thousand tons of durians valued at around US$30 million which shows the important role played by bats. Batu Caves also is known as a site for recreational activities such as rock climbing, base jumping, zip-lining and educational caving.

The Malaysian Cave & Karst Conservancy (MCKC) is one of the very few organisations that carry out research and conservation of caves and karst in our country. 

We organised the Batu Caves Scientific Expedition (BCSE) from January until December 2019 with the endorsement and approval of the Majlis Perbandaran Selayang. 

The Batu Caves Scientific Expedition was participated in by scientists from various institutions, government bodies and non-governmental organisations. There were many fascinating findings covering numerous fields such as flora, fauna, geology, and palaeontology. 

Encroachment around the hill is worrying and may cause irreversible negative impacts to the flora and fauna especially the endemic species and their roles in ecosystem services, for example on bats who act as pollinators, not just for durian but also mangrove plants and as seed dispersers and insect pest control. 

Moreover, unsustainable development may expose human lives to potential risk from rockfalls and loose rocks on the steep slopes.

Limestone hills take millions of years to form but bulldozers and explosives can cause irreversible damage in just a few hours. 

Batu Caves is an outstanding precious heritage and it's long overdue that its multiple values, whether as a landscape icon or for culture, biodiversity, geology, and ecotourism, are valued and conserved for prosperity.

The writer is president, Malaysian Cave and Karst Conservancy.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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