SEBERANG PERAI, Dec 14 — Seberang Perai has been identified as a potential eco-tourism site with a focus on mudflats and mangrove swamps where a large number of migratory birds are found.
Eco-tourism can be one of the major drivers of the state’s tourism industry, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said.
“Seberang Perai has the highest potential as an eco-tourism site in this region,” he said in his opening speech at an eco-tourism forum titled “Seberang Perai’s Potentiality” at The Light in Seberang Jaya today.
He cited three main potential sites for eco-tourism: mudflats and mangrove swamps at the Air Hitam recreation park in Lahar Yooi, Kuala Bekah in Penaga and the Teluk Air Tawar and Kuala Muda coast.
“These sites attract thousands of migratory waterbirds from hundreds of different species each year,” he said.
The Teluk Air Tawar-Kuala Muda site is also an important area where many rare species of waterbirds have been spotted recently, he added.
Lim said this has attracted birdwatchers from Korea and Japan.
“If this site is promoted as an eco-tourism spot, it will attract nature lovers from all over the world and turn Seberang Perai into a main eco-tourism hub in the region,” he said.
In a paper jointly presented by the Malaysian Nature Society and Birdlife International, the 8km stretch of mangroves and mudflats along the coast of Teluk Air Tawar-Kuala Muda is an important bird and biodiversity area (IBA).
The two nature bodies proposed that the IBA be gazetted as a protected area to conserve the largest remaining intact coastal mangrove forest block in Seberang Perai.
The researchers added that gazetting the site will also safeguard the livelihoods of the fishing communities and associated economic activities as the mangroves are an important part of the ecosystem for fishery breeding and as a spawning ground.
The two groups also proposed that a wetland education centre be established to educate local communities on how to protect the site as well as develop other awareness activities centred on the site.