Malaysians pledge support for the protection of the country’s freshwater resources

12 November 2017, Alor Setar: WWF-Malaysia and Keriang Hill Resort, along with approximately 800 Malaysians, showed their support and commitment to conserving freshwater – one of Malaysia’s most valuable resources – at the ‘Kedah Cycle and Run for Water 2017’ event on the 11 November morning. Her Royal Highness, Yang Teramat Mulia Dato’ Seri DiRaja Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz binti Almarhum Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, Tunku Temenggong Kedah was also present for the morning’s event.

– Photo group with the Kedah Cycle & Run for Water 2017 participants with Her Royal Highness, Yang Teramat Mulia Tunku Temenggong Kedah (center) and Dato’ Dr Dionysius SK Sharma, Executive Director/CEO of WWF-Malaysia (eight from left)

This cycling event is the first of its kind to be organized by WWF-Malaysia to support freshwater conservation efforts in the Ulu Muda Forest Complex. The 163,000-hectare forests in Kedah function as a water catchment area for the Muda, Pedu and Ahning reservoirs. The forests house the headwaters of the rivers that provide as much as 96.5% of Kedah’s and 80% of Penang’s treated water supply for domestic and industrial use, driving the region’s growth in many ways as an invaluable environmental service to northern Peninsular Malaysia.

Despite its undeniable importance, the Ulu Muda Forest Complex remains unprotected. As the northern region grows economically across the agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and service sectors, the demand for water continues to increase. In order to attract, sustain and retain longterm investments for the state, water security is vital.

“As one of the major contributors towards the nation’s economic growth and well-being of Malaysians, there is an urgent need to protect Ulu Muda. ‘Kedah Cycle and Run for Water 2017’ is meant to be an initiative to encourage greater awareness on the importance of Ulu Muda and its vital ecosystem services that enable the continuous growth of the state and the nation,” said Dato’ Dr Dionysius SK Sharma, Executive Director/CEO of WWF-Malaysia.

– Participants cycling along the route surrounded by paddy fields in Alor Setar, Kedah.

The forest also supplies water that irrigates Kedah’s vast rice fields, which produce 37% of Malaysia’s total rice supply. Ulu Muda is the most significant water source in irrigating the granary areas not only in Kedah (which is also known as the ‘rice bowl’ of Malaysia), but also in Perlis through the three reservoirs. They collectively contribute 32% of the irrigation water needs for rice production, meaning close to one third of the rice produced in the nation is dependent on the Ulu Muda Forest Complex. As the main water resource for the Muda Irrigation Scheme, Ulu Muda is critical in ensuring the livelihood of close to 55,000 farming families in Kedah and Perlis.

Yesterday’s event that saw a participation of almost 800 Malaysians, was aimed to serve as a platform of awareness and education on the significance of Ulu Muda at present, and for the future. It is hoped that this platform will drive and urge Malaysians to play a more active role in the protection of Ulu Muda and our freshwater resources.

“Water is one of the most critical life sources on the planet. Today, close to 663 million people on this planet do not have access to safe water – that is roughly one in three people. If we continue to take this precious resource for granted, we may find ourselves in an equally difficult situation soon in the future,” said YTM Tunku Temenggong Kedah in her opening address at the launch event.

The Princess of Kedah also added that the state is proud to host the ‘Kedah Cycle and Run for Water 2017’, and urged Malaysians to rally their support for freshwater conservation. All participants for ‘Kedah Cycle and Run for Water 2017’ received a 100% organic t-shirt and medal made from recycled remnant wood for a minimal registration fee of RM45. All proceeds will be channelled towards WWF-Malaysia’s continuous freshwater conservation efforts in Ulu Muda, which includes advocating the gazettement of Ulu Muda forest complex as a protected area, and developing a ‘Payment for Ecosystem Services’ scheme.

“We strongly believe that these efforts will play a significant role in protecting our crucial natural capital in the long-term for Malaysia,” added Dato’ Dr Sharma.

‘Kedah Cycle and Run for Water 2017’ is a collaborative effort by Keriang Hill Resort, LM Bikers, Yayasan Sultanah Bahiyah, Hospital Sultanah Bahiyahand the Alor Setar Jogging Club, supported by Yang Teramat Mulia Dato’ Seri DiRaja Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz binti Almarhum Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, Tunku Temenggong Kedah.

– A tiger painting artwork prepared by Fara Sabina Haizal and Belle Chin Xia Juan was handed over by Dato’ Dr Dionysius SK Sharma, Executive Director/CEO of WWF-Malaysia (third from right) to Her Royal Highness, Yang Teramat Mulia Tunku Temenggong Kedah (third from left) during the closing ceremony of Kedah Cycle & Run for Water 2017.

The awareness event called for the public to cycle 40km along the paddy fields in Alor Setar, against the scenic backdrop of Gunung Keriang. To make the event more accessible to the general public, a 7km fun run was held concurrently for participants who prefer not to cycle.

– Her Royal Highness, Yang Teramat Mulia Tunku Temenggong Kedah (second from bottom right) visiting WWF-Malaysia’s booth, accompanied by Dato’ Dr Dionysius SK Sharma, Executive Director/CEO of WWF-Malaysia (center).

Apart from the cycle and run, a water awareness exhibition was also held at Keriang Hill Resort with participation from various stakeholders and organisations in Kedah, in an effort to increase public knowledge and awareness on water-related issues in the state.