Tasik Chini ecosystem under threat?

T.N. Alagesh

PEKAN: Months after clusters of lotus flowers started blooming at Tasik Chini, floodwaters spilled into the lake, submerging the iconic plants.

Water from Sungai Pahang, which burst its banks in late January, spilled into Sungai Chini, causing the water level in the lake to rise and become murky.

Lake Chini Resort manager Mohd Azizan Ibrahim said the water level during the floods was about 5m above the normal level, and this caused the lotus plants to be submerged.

He said the lake water had
not fully receded and that it might need to be diverted into Sungai Pahang if the situation persisted until May.

“The water is no longer murky and is improving, but it will take some time for it to return to normal.

“This is normal, especially during the monsoon season when the overflowing water from Sungai Pahang spills into the lake.”

On reports that Tasik Chini had become a “dead lake” due to pollution from uncontrolled logging, mining and farming activities, Azizan said there were some setbacks but the situation was not as serious as portrayed by the media reports.

“The Orang Asli community still casts their fishing nets, bathe in the lake and use the water for daily chores. Visitors can go for boat rides and visit the nearby Orang Asli settlements.

“Everyone is committed to reviving the lake, and we hope those involved in mining and farming activities will also cooperate.”

Azizan, who has 40 employees at his resort, said tourist arrivals this year appeared promising, especially with the tie-ups with tour agencies in conjunction with the Visit Pahang Year 2017.

“Negative media reports on the lake over the past few years have been damaging and visitors chose to stay away,” he said, adding that a new National Service training camp would be opened in the vicinity in September.

In an effort to rehabilitate the lake, lotus flowers had been replanted by the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia and the State Forestry Department since 2015, said a resort employee, who declined to be named.

“The plants were replanted when they were destroyed by massive floods. Then, the floods struck again recently. There is no more the
teh tarik- coloured water and we expect the quality to improve in the next few weeks,” he said.

On the logging and mining activities, he said they were not rampant, but the authorities must monitor them.

“The state Forestry Department regularly uses drones to check on illegal logging activities near the lake, but mining activities should be stopped once their permits expire,” he said, adding that the natural resources and environment minister should visit the lake to see what was happening on the ground.

He said the recent news reports that likened Tasik Chini to a “dead lake” had caught the attention of various quarters, prompting a meeting at the resort on March 4, attended by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry’s secretary-general and heads of department.

“If the problem is genuine, all must work together to find a long-term solution,” he said.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, in a statement recently, said only two iron ore mines, approved by the state government in 2010, were operating in Tasik Chini and that there were no logging activities near the lake.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, during a visit to the lake in October last year, reaffirmed the government’s commitment to conserving and preserving the country’s second largest natural lake.

Tasik Chini, recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in May 2009 as the first biosphere reserve in the country, has been making headlines for the wrong reasons after its ecosystem was claimed to be in a critical and dire situation due to unregulated agriculture, logging and mining activities.