Most nature-based activities are not ecotourism

OVER the years, the word “ecotourism” has been bastardised to the extent that even the authorities, experts and academics no longer know or are aware of its definition and use this term freely to label many nature-based activities that bring harm to the environment they are promoting.

Since the beginning of time, our jungles have been truly heaven on earth for the greatest variety of living things, unlike barren deserts or rocky mountains that may look serene or majestic in photos or videos but sustain little life.

Sadly, half of our jungles have already been cut down, which benefited mainly timber tycoons, state governments and corrupt officials.

Other than man-made structures such as buildings and roads, areas unsuitable for plantations and crops are covered by secondary jungles or belukar.

Malaysia, being a tropical paradise, has been attracting visitors from around the world. Unlike countries with cold winters where people can die from hypothermia, our relatively warm seas allow swimming all year round except when there are high waves or strong currents.

Many of our jungles have turned into playgrounds. Recently, the media reported that people had used explosives to catch ikan kelah, a protected fish species, at Kuala Sungai Mangga and Sungai Senga in the Temengor Forest Reserve at Hulu Perak, prompting public outrage.

State women, family, social welfare, cooperative and entrepreneur development committee chairman Salbiah Mohamed, who is also the Temengor assemblyman, lodged a police report on the matter at the Gerik police headquarters.

Perak Forestry Department immediately issued a freeze order on the approval of permits for entry into the Amanjaya Forest Reserve, the Banding Forest Reserve, the Temengor Forest Reserve, and the Gerik Forest Reserve in the Hulu Perak district for recreational purposes.

Its director Basri Abdul Manaf said, “All permits for entering these forests for recreational activities, like off-road racing, motocross, mountain biking, fishing and so forth, have been suspended. Failure to comply with this directive may result in prosecution under the National Forestry Act 1984 (Adoption) Enactment 1985.”

But why were permits granted to enter forest reserves for activities that cause great harm to the natural environment?

Equally puzzling is the freeze for enforcement and control over forest resources will be for three months only. Are our jungles elastic and can recover so quickly?

Besides the emigration of our people, the greatest irreplaceable loss of our country is cutting down or damaging our jungles. Custodians ought to be more conscientious and not treat their occupation as just another job. Their responsibility or irresponsibility affects future generations.

Similarly, the authorities, experts and academics ought to be more educated and responsible. As “eco” means nature-friendly and “ecotourism” is nature-friendly tourism, they should not be sanitising nature-based activities that bring harm to nature by labelling them as “ecotourism”. – March 18, 2024


YS Chan is the master trainer for Mesra Malaysia and Travel and Tours Enhancement Course. He is an Asean Tourism Master Trainer and also a tourism and transport business consultant.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


Main pic credit: Sinar Harian


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