It has been almost a year after the state government, in collaboration with the federal government, submitted its Penang Hill biosphere reserve dossier to Unesco for approval. — Picture by KE Ooi
GEORGE TOWN, Sept 15 — Penang is set to receive its second Unesco recognition with the listing of Penang Hill as a Unesco Biosphere Reserve.
It is learnt that the International Coordinating Council of Unesco’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB-ICC) is meeting in Abuja in Nigeria between September 13 and 17 where proposals for new biosphere reserves will be decided later today.
It is believed that Penang’s application for Penang Hill to be designated as a biosphere reserve will be approved in the meeting this evening.
PHC and Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow are expected to announce the Unesco designation tomorrow morning in a virtual press conference.
George Town, the capital city on Penang island, was inscribed as a Unesco World Heritage site back in 2008.
It has been almost a year after the state government, in collaboration with the federal government, submitted its Penang Hill biosphere reserve dossier to Unesco for approval.
There are a total of 714 biosphere reserves in 129 countries and Malaysia currently has two biosphere reserves listed: Tasik Chini which received the recognition in 2009 and Crocker Range in Sabah which received it in 2014.
Penang submitted its application to Unesco on September 30 last year after four years of collaboration between Penang Hill Corporation (PHC), various state and federal government agencies, bodies, The Habitat Foundation, private institutions and non-governmental organisations.
The Penang Hill Biosphere Reserve application covers Penang Hill and spreads out to cover the Penang Botanic Gardens, the Penang National Park at Teluk Bahang, the Teluk Bahang Dam, the Ayer Itam Dam and the Penang Marine Park off the coast of the national park.
The biosphere reserve covers a total land area of 12,681 hectares, which is about 25 per cent of Penang island.
Out of the 12,681ha, a total of 7,285ha are inland with 468ha of it under the Penang Hill Special Area Plan while 5,196ha are marine.
Last year, after submitting the application, PHC general manager Datuk Cheok Lay Leng had said the biosphere reserve, once approved, will be jointly managed by various state and federal agencies including the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan), the Forestry Department, Penang Botanic Gardens and PHC.
The biosphere reserve will be divided into three zones: the core zone covering about 6,304ha which consists of the Penang National Park (2,622ha), permanent forest reserve (3,559ha), water catchment area (3,304ha) and the two dam (122ha).
The buffer zone is 50m inside and around the core zone for inland, which covers about 526ha, and 0.5 nautical miles outside marine boundary which covers about 1,687ha of marine area.
There will be a transition zone between the core zone and the buffer zone which covers mostly the water catchment areas and about 80 per cent of the area is private land.
The idea to nominate Penang Hill as a Unesco biosphere reserve was first mooted back in 2016 when the first Bioblitz programme was held at The Habitat together with researchers from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) on the hill.
According to the Unesco site, some of the main characteristics of biosphere reserves include achieving interconnected functions of conservation; development and logistic support; putting in place appropriate zoning schemes; focusing on multi-stakeholder approach with emphasis on involvement of local communities; integrating cultural and biological diversity; demonstrating sound sustainable development practices and policies; and acting as sites of excellence for education and training.