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Archives 2015

Some items from the press relating to caves

Contents :
Bau Caves closed due to flooding
Lift for Gunung Kerian visitors
Gua Musang to get RM 1.3b cement plant
Langkawi caves threatened by Lafarge quarrying
Kanthan and Lafarge
Gomantong video on Nat Geog
Elery Hamilton-Smith dies
Quarrying limestone hills
Saving Merapoh's caves
Langkawi Geopark status threatened
Tunnel through Bukit Tebing Tinggi, Perlis
Proposal for Gua Musang to be a Geopark
New cave found at Mulu, Conviction Cave
Fire at Batu Caves temple
Gua Pelangi artefacts
Gua Kelam 2 train
Barbara Harrisson dies

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Bau Caves closed due to flooding

The first news of 2015 was flooding in Sarawak which meant the closure of Fairy Cave and Wind Cave at Bau. There were reports from Bernama 19 Jan and Borneo Post 20 Jan.

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Lift for Gunung Kerian visitors

A lift at Gunung Kerian has been talked about since 2008. This is the place where crystals are being collected and sold, see Archives 2008, 2009. This piece was published in NST on 3 Feb :

Lift for Gunung Kerian visitors by ZAHRATULHAYAT MAT ARIF

ALOR STAR: Gunung Keriang, which is popular for its limestone will be opened to the public to spice up the state tourism sector for the Visit Kedah 2016.
State Tourism, Indian and Siamese Community Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Rawi Abdul Hamid said to enhance the visitors' comfort, the state government had allocated more than RM1 million to build a nine-floor lift to enter the cave.
He said unlike other caves in the country, Gunung Keriang was blessed with a unique feature as it was part of the Chuping Limestone Formation, which stretches from the Thai-Perlis border to Langkawi.
“This is a treasure trove of the state and there are so many interesting things that visitors could enjoy a thrilling 600-metre tour inside the cave which may take up to two hours to be completed.
“I believe Gunung Keriang cave will be the latest tourist attraction in the country and we encourage investors to tap into its vast potential by developing the area," he said after flagging-off the State’s Treasure Exploration Programme here today.

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Gua Musang to get RM 1.3b cement plant

It looks like Gua Musang in Kelantan is going ahead with the cement plant. See Archives 2014, report in Sept. On 28 Feb 2915, NST published this piece, taken from Bernama -

Gua Musang to get RM 1.3b cement plant

GUA MUSANG: A RM1.3 billion integrated cement manufacturing plant will be built at Felda Chiku 8 here and is expected to be completed in two years, said Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob. The 100-hectare plant by ASN Cement Sdn Bhd could spur the local and state economy, he told reporters after the ground breaking here today. Ahmad said the plant would generate 1,000 jobs with priority to be given to locals, create new business opportunities in surrounding areas, and supply enough cement for the Malaysian market. On another matter, Ahmad urged more researchers to visit the district to study its limestone caves.

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Gua Pinang, Langkawi, threatened by Lafarge quarry

The last couple of years have seen a lot of news about Lafarge who are quarrying Gunung Kanthan in Perak - see archives 2013 and 2014, also my blog. Now there is news that Lafarge may destroy an important bat cave in Langakwi. See this report in the Malay Mail on 1st March. According to the report, Lafarge have already destroyed Gua Tok Sabong and Gua Balai.
This matter was also highlighted on the international site Caving News. Gua Pinang was surveyed by cavers in 1989.

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Lafarge quarry at Gunung Kanthan

The Lafarge quarry at Gunung Kanthan in Perak is in the news again. This article appeared in The Star on 5 March -

Lafarge’s encroachment into eco-sensitive areas causes alarm

In this article, Lafarge accuse FRIM of being uncooperative, "He also said Lafarge Malaysia had been trying to meet FRIM to no avail. “It has been very difficult ... (FRIM) refuses to work with us,” he added."
FRIM published a reply to this in The Star,, 7 March - "Working to conserve heritage".
Lafarge then replied to this in The Star, 11 Mar, "Working towards biodiversity conservation".

Gomantong video

A very short video of Gomantong by Nat Geog, "Bat Man of Borneo - Braving guano, urine, and infectious diseases is all in a day's work for bat ecologist Donald McFarlane, who descends into the depths of Borneo’s Gomantong Caves to study the bats that live there."

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Elery Hamilton-Smith dies

Professor Elery Hamilton-Smith died 27 June. An Australian, he was considered a world expert on cave and karst. He was Chair, IUCN Task Force Cave & Karst, and co-authored Guidelines for Cave and Karst Protection in 1997 with John Watson, David Gillieson and Kevin Kiernan for the World Commission on Protected Areas and the World Conservation Union (IUCN). In 2001 he played a large role in the Asia Pacific Forum on Karst Ecosystems and World Heritage that was held in Mulu. Of special note during Elery’s “retirement years” was his work with various Chinese and other world karst and World Heritage experts on the management of karst sites in Australia, China, Malaysia, PNG, Slovenia, Vietnam and on their review and nominations for World Heritage listing. See a full eulogy.

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Quarrying limestone hills

2 articles on quarrying limestone in the Star 2 on 13 July. Stop quarrying hills for limestone, dig for it instead is about the quarrying of limestone hills in Perak. The other article, Quarrying threatens to flatten this wildlife refuge in Kelantan is about the quarrying of Chiku 7 near Gua Musang and the construction of the cement plant.

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Saving Merapoh's caves

A piece in Bernama on 18 July, "NGO Wants Merapoh Caves In Pahang Gazetted As Eco-Tourism Centre" and a similiar piece in Free Malaysia Today, "Gazette the Merapoh caves to stop quarrying, Pahang told". This is the Bernama report:

NGO Wants Merapoh Caves In Pahang Gazetted As Eco-Tourism Centre By Siti Aisyah Harun

The Association for the Protection of Natural Heritage of Malaysia (Peka) has called for the Merapoh area in Pahang to be gazetted as an eco-tourism centre in the Sungai Relau National Park.
Its president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said this is because the area has a network of more than 100 limestone caves which are hundreds of years old and a natural attraction for domestic and foreign tourists.
She said Peka had sent a proposal to the Pahang state government to gazette the area but have yet to receive a reply.
"We hope the Merapoh area can be gazetted as a tourism gateway to the Sungai Relau National Park and to preserve the beautiful natural heritage for the future generation.
"We are concerned that certain parties are breaking down the limestone caves for raw material which could disrupt the eco-system and damage the irreplaceable captivating natural habitat," she told Bernama.
According to Shariffa, the limestone cave area has yet to be fully explored and the hundreds of beautiful stalagmites and stalactites could generate enormous revenue for the national tourism sector.
She said among the caves which have become the focus of local and foreign tourists is the 'Cave of the Mermaid's Tears' which has a natural pond and the Malaysia Day Cave is said to be most fascinating.
She said even though the national park has several entrances, Merapoh would make the best gateway to the park.
"We also saw various flora and fauna which are still untouched and could be suitable for research. We hope the Pahang state government will assist us by gazetting the caves so that parties will stop their activities at the caves," she said.

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Langkawi Geopark status threatened

Langkawi Geopark was declared by the UNESCO Global Geopark Network as the 52nd geopark on June 1, 2007. However now the status of Langkawi as a geopark has been threatened. One reason is due to the tourist boats which are destroying mangroves by the waves they churn up. Bernama did a report on 18 July "Eye on high speed boats in Langkawi Geopark". Then the Star did 3 reports based on Bernama: 18 July "High-speed boats posing threat to Langkawi's Geopark status, says Lada"; 19 July "High speed boats posing threat to Langkawi Geopark" and 20 July did a report "Langkawi business community says it can help save geopark":

The business community in Langkawi is calling for authorities to impose a speed limit on tourist boats, which they say are responsible for destroying nearly a third of the mangroves there with the waves they churn up.
According to Langkawi Business Association deputy director Datuk Alexander Isaac, about 30% of mangroves have been lost in recent years, especially due to speeding boats and other fast-moving vessels.
“It is time for the authorities in Langkawi to step up enforcement and limit the speed for these boats to 5kph.
“Otherwise, Langkawi risks losing its Unesco Geopark status following the United Nations’ scheduled review next month,” he added.
Alexander said the banning of personal water craft from carrying out tours in the area could also help to stop further damage to the mangroves.
“The situation is bad. The whole problem here is because of the uncontrolled speeds which cause a significant amount of erosion of river banks.”
Langkawi is one of 100 geoparks in the world and in 2007, became the first in South-East Asia to be recognised by Unesco.
Unesco assessors will visit Malaysia next month to revalidate the status granted to Langkawi for the third consecutive four-year term soon.
On Saturday, Bernama reported Langkawi Development Authority chief executive officer Tan Sri Khalid Ramli voicing out his concern over the effects of fast-moving boats on the beaches and mangroves of Langkawi.
He said that LDA was serious about keeping its Unesco geopark status.
“Despite replanting mangroves in this area, all efforts would go to waste if there is no stringent enforcement,” said Alexander, who is also the owner of cruise services provider Tropical Charters Sdn Bhd.
He said awareness and education could also play a major role for future mangrove protection.
Tourism Malaysia chairman Wee Choo Keong said the authorities must not waste time to get cracking.
“The state authorities should pass laws to keep speeding boats up to 3km away from mangrove areas, or maintain a distance which is deemed sufficient to preserve the natural habitat.”

Star 3 Aug published this report from Bernama "Unesco experts start Langkawi geopark status study".

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Tunnel through Bukit Tebing Tinggi, Perlis
A report in Bernama in Sept about projects to relieve flooding in Perlis .

Dam Water Diversion To Alleviate Floods In Northern Perlis
Extracts from the article :
The project's main components include a 23-kilometre-long canal stretching from the Timah Tasoh dam to Kampung Wai in Kuala Perlis and a 756-metre-long tunnel cutting across the Bukit Tebing Tinggi limestone hill.
Although the 10m-wide tunnel is seven metres high, the water level will not exceed 5.5m to keep it well ventilated.
To cut costs, a technology known as control blasting was used to excavate and bore a tunnel through the limestone hill.
"Unlike the very costly Tunnel Boring Machine which was utilised for the building of the Smart Tunnel in Kuala Lumpur, our tunnel was bored manually using dynamite as an explosive," explained Asnol Adzhan, adding that the expertise of an engineering firm in China was utilised for the building of the tunnel.
"Work has been going on around the clock to ensure that the project is completed on time," he added.
He also pointed out that the tunnel differed from its counterparts worldwide as both ends were bored simultaneously on the limestone hill. In the case of the other tunnels, boring works were carried out from one end to the other.

And a piece from MSN, taken from Bernama 8 Sept :
Flood Diversion Project To Substantially Solve Flood Problems In Perlis
The Timah Tasoh West Flood Diversion Project costing RM260 million which is due for completion in June 2016 will solve most of the flood problems in northern Perlis. Drainage and Irrigation Department director-general, Datuk Zainor Rahim Ibrahim said the construction of the tunnel alone cost RM56 million and was on schedule."The limestone tunnel measuring 756 metres long is 70 per cent completed and will be the main water channel, due to be completed by December while the other major components like the bridge and dam are set to be completed in June next year," he said at a press conference, here, today.Earlier, Zainor Rahim performed the symbolic blasting of the final section of the tunnel at Tebing Tinggi. --------

Proposal for Gua Musang to be a Geopark

On 5 Nov Bernama had a report about a proposal to declare the Gua Musang area into a Geopark, as it has "limestone caves that were over 300 million years old and natural hot water pools". I guess the state assemblyman has ignored the fact there is a cement plant in the area, see above, February, and some hills will be quarried.

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Conviction Cave - new cave at Mulu

Exciting news from Mulu, the discovery of a totally new cave, called Conviction Cave. It was discovered in Oct 2015 by British caver Andy Eavis and the news was only announced on 7 Nov. New appeared on several sources, including Bernama 6th , Bernama 7th, the Malaysian Insider, The Star, NST, Borneo Post, Berita Harian, Malay Mail and also on the radio.

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Fire at Batu Caves temple

It's not often there is a report of a fire inside a cave! The Star, 23 Dec, 'Fire breaks out in Batu Caves Temple'
A souvenir shop was razed after a fire broke out at the Batu Caves Temple on Wednesday.
Selangor Fire and Rescue Department assistant operations director Mohd Sani Harul said they received a distress call at about 5.25pm.
"We arrived there about seven minutes after receiving the alert.
"A team of firemen from the Selayang, Rawang and Gombak fire stations managed to control the fire within several minutes," he said.

Report in NST, 23 Dec, 'Priests and visitors evacuated after fire breaks out at Batu Caves'.

Artefacts at Gua Pelanggi, Negeri Sembilan

Berita Harian 22 Dec :
Artifak purba 14, 000 tahun ditemui di Gua Pelangi, Jelebu (14, 000 year-old ancient artefact found in Gua Pelangi, Jelebu)

Berita Harian 23 Dec :
Perlu dana lengkapkan penyelidikan di Gua Pelangi

Berita Harian 24 Dec :
Penemuan artifak di Gua Pelangi perlu diketengahkan

Bernama 24 Dec :
Further research needed on 14,000-year-old artefacts found in Gua Pelangi

The discovery of Paleolithic artefacts believed to be about 14,000 years-old in Gua Pelangi, Felda Pasoh 4, Jelebu, is an interesting discovery that needs further research.
Negeri Sembilan Museum Board (LMNS) curator Aziz Mohd Gorip said the discovery was something new and had historic values that are rarely found in the state.
"Although the artefacts were found in this state, according to the Heritage Act 2005, it comes under the Department of National Heritage (JWN) and all the artefacts are the responsibility of JWN," he told Bernama here today when commenting on a Malay daily report about the discovery of Paleolithic artefacts at Gua Pelangi by Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), last year.
According to the report, the artefacts which were in the form of stone tools and food remnants were the first of its kind found in the southern part of the peninsula, after previously being discovered in Perak and the East Coast.
Aziz, who is also the acting director of LMNS said Gua Pelangi had long been found by local residents, and museum officials had also been to the cave several years ago.
He said at the initial stage, when they were informed by the locals about the discovery of a limestone cave, LPNS and the Negeri Sembilan Tourism Board (LPNS) intended to promote the place as a tourist attraction.
"However, JWN, USM, LMNS and LPNS need to further discuss it," he said.
He said that according to local residents, the cave was also believed to have been a hideout, transit camp and passing route for the communists at one time.
"This was after we found some water containers, shoes and medicines of communists when we had an expedition to the cave in 2013. I understand that Felda Pasoh 4 opened in 1975," he said.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Historical Society Negeri Sembilan Branch chairman Datuk Seri Hasan Malek believes authorities such as the LPNS and JWN should take the initiative and act quickly to preserve the area.
"This is a historical breakthrough because it tells the origin of the names 'Kuala Klawang' and 'Jelebu'.
"Apart from that, an in-depth study should be carried out on Gua Pelangi as the discovery of the 14,000-year-old artefacts certainly hold a lot of state and national secrets that have never been told to the public," he said.
Hasan Malek, who is also the Kuala Pilah MP said the authorities should also turn Gua Pelangi into a heritage area and subsequently raise funds to beautify the area so that it can be promoted as a tourism product in the state.
"Writers and researchers should also take the opportunity to tell this story to the public so that the history of this state can be shared by all," he said.

The Star, 25 Dec :
Gua Pelangi to be gazetted

Compiled by HANIS ZAINAL, NG SI HOOI AND R.ARAVINTHAN
THE Gua Pelangi area in Jelebu will be gazetted as a historical site, reported Berita Harian.
The Negri Sembilan government plans to designate the area as a historical site after receiving a full report on the discovery of artifacts dating back 14,000 years.
Negri Sembilan state committee on culture and Malay customs chairman Abd Razak Ab Said said that gazetting the site was important to ensure the Gua Pelangi area was protected and that efforts to enhance the area’s status could be done.
Furthermore, the artifacts, consisting of stone tools from the Paleolithic age, were important to the state and country’s history.
Abd Razak said that the state government was now waiting for a report on the artifacts from USM’s Centre for Global Archaeological Research.
“This historial find is important as no one had expected that there are artifacts dating back 14,000 years in the state. These artifacts had also been found by experts in the archeological field,” he told the daily,
adding that the state government would also seek the expertise of the National Heritage Department before gazetting the area as a historical site.
Among the artifacts found were about 20 stone tools believed to be used for hunting, gathering and preparing food and more than 50kg of bones from wild boar, monkeys and deer.

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Train in Gua Kelam 2

Apparently the train in Gua Kelam 2 in Perlis has not been in operation since 2013. The reason is an economic one, also "the cave walls would not be able to withstand the level of the train vibrations"! This report is from Bernama 28 Dec :

Safety factor cited for stopping of Perlis cave train

Safety of the people has been cited as the primary reason for the discontinuation of the train service in Gua Kelam 2 (Cave of Darkness 2) in Kaki Bukit that ceased operation in 2013 after a three-year run.
Perlis Tourism Committee chairman Abdul Jamil Saad said today a study by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health and the Public Works Department found that the cave walls would not be able to withstand the level of the train vibrations.
He also said that the state government could not come up with the millions of ringgit that would be needed to strengthen the cave walls if the train service was to be resumed.
"The state government decided against resuming the train service due to the safety factor although it has helped to draw tourists to the cave," he told Bernama.
The service, then handled by the State Department of Forestry with the collaboration of the Tourism Ministry, involved a two-coach train carrying a maximum of 20 passengers per trip on a 400-metre journey every two hours per day.
Besides Gua Kelam 2, the Gua Kelam (Cave of Darkness) of 370-metre length that stretches into the Nakawan Range from Kaki Bukit town to Kampung Wang Kelian is also a major tourist draw.

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Barbara Harrisson dies

Barbara Harrisson died in Dec (May 20, 1922 – December 26, 2015). During the 1950s-1960s she did a lot of research in Sarawak with her husband Tom Harrisson, who was curator of the Sarawak Museum. Barbara published many papers. See her obituary in OCS and in Dutch Wikipedia.