GEORGE TOWN, Sept 19 — Penang Hill Corporation (PHC) expects Penang Hill and its surrounding areas to be accorded recognition as a Unesco Biosphere Reserve in the next two years.
PHC general manager Datuk Cheok Lay Leng said the Cabinet has recently approved the paperwork for the application submitted by Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources.
“We have been informed in early September that the Cabinet has approved the paperwork which will then be submitted to the Malaysian National Commission for Unesco where they may take about two years to evaluate,” he told reporters after the official launching of Penang Hill’s Hillside Retreat Bungalow by Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow here today.
Cheok said the Penang Hill Biosphere Reserve will include the Penang Hill as a central park, Teluk Bahang National Park and Marine Park with an estimated up to 12,481 hectares of land.
He added that PHC have defined the core zone, buffer zone and transition zones clearly, and areas that need to be preserved.
Penang Hill, a lush, undisturbed forest with virgin jungle reserves has been found to house 85 species of orchids, more than 100 species of birds, three iconic species of monkeys, as well as several plant, ant and spider species unique to the hill range.
However, Chow said the recognition will benefit all Penangites and become another selling point for Penang Hill to attract more visitors.
He said just like the Unesco George Town World Heritage Site, it has boosted the tourism sector and attracted more international tourist arrivals before COVID-19 hit.
“I hope it will have the same effect as the Unesco George Town World Heritage Site recognition. The tourism sector is still in its recovery stage, the Unesco Biosphere Reserve recognition will come in timely,” he said.
According to the Unesco website, biosphere reserves are areas comprising terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each reserve promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.
At present, Unesco’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves lists 669 sites in 120 countries, including 20 transboundary sites.
There are currently only two Unesco reserves in the country, Tasik Chini in Pahang and the Crocker Range, south of Mount Kinabalu in Sabah. They were accorded Unesco reserve status in 2009 and 2014 respectively.