Words by Lim Kim Chye
Images by Cheang Kum Seng
Kinta Nature Park – a legacy of Perak’s tin mining heritage
The tin-mining boom times in Perak came to an end in the 1980s with the crash of the tin market and the depletion of tin deposits. By the 1990s, the tin industry had collapsed, affecting some 70,000 hectares in Kinta Valley alone and leaving extensive tracts of idle land consisting of barren tailings sand and hundreds of mining pools.
Nature can be very resilient and even battered lands, if left to recover, can eventually heal itself. Left undisturbed, the barren tailing sands were slowly being colonised by pioneer vegetation and mining pools were attracting many waterbirds. These ex-mining lands, generally dismissed as wastelands, had in fact become habitats for all kinds of wildlife. Realising this potential, in 1998 MNS Perak proposed to the authorities that an area of ex-mining land should be set aside as a nature park, with the following objectives:
1. To maintain biodiversity by conserving habitats for fauna and flora.
2. To rehabilitate ex-mining lands for recreation, tourism and education.
3. To protect a scenic landscape synonymous with the Kinta District of Perak.
4. To protect a tin-mining heritage of Perak.
5. To protect mining pools which are important water resources for the future.
This idea was keenly supported by the then Kinta District Officer. In 2001, Kinta Nature Park (KNP) came into being in an area just outside Batu Gajah and RM625,000 was spent on basic infrastructure, including a viewing tower, toilets and rest huts. The KNP Technical Committee that was set up made plans to survey and map the site for the purpose of gazettement. However, this initial enthusiasm was short-lived, as changes in the posting of key government officers, resulted in a lack of follow-up and disinterest in the project. The development and management plans provided by MNS Perak were not acted on and the project floundered, with facilities falling into disrepair.
Now, some 10 years down the road, there is still no light at the end of the tunnel for KNP. The situation on the ground has never before been so bleak. With no agency appointed to manage its grounds, is it any wonder that KNP has now become a free-for-all as far as land grabbers are concerned?
It seems vested interests have allowed pristine mining pools to be polluted by duck and fish breeders. When you think that wars have been fought over water, such irresponsible acts can be equated to economic sabotage against the nation. Sand mining have also marred the very landscape that KNP is supposed to protect, in addition to destroying the breeding sites of bee-eaters and kingfishers. Even oil palm had been planted in the more remote part of KNP.
But the last straw happened recently in August – someone fenced up the whole of Tasik Pucung and its heronry, easily the largest of its kind in Malaysia, with 5 breeding waterbirds. This act is akin to challenging the authorities – what is the government going to do about it?
MNS Perak, being an NGO, contributed valuable time, effort and resources in the concept work leading to the KNP project, at no cost to the Perak government. However, if this legacy of Perak’s tin-mining heritage is allowed to fade away, our loss is as nothing compared to the great loss to the people and country for which Kinta Nature Park is dedicated.
Blue balloon on the map marks Kinta Nature Park’s main entrance. Zoom in to view geographical and road details
Bird’s eye view by Lim Eng Hoo
These aerial shots really show the serenity and greenery of Kinta Nature Park.
Heronry on Pulau Pucung
Illegal sand mining near Tasik Pucung
Visitor center facilities
Heronry with Titiwangsa Range in the backdrop