By Abdul Ghani Nasir
Pixs by Mohd Noor Ramly
BANGI, 24 Jan. 2012 – The head of National University of Malaysia (UKM) Tasik Chini Research Centre, Prof Dato’ Dr Mushrifah Idris is determined to ensure the lake is preserved and supported to avoid its extinction like Tasik Mentiga which had dried up and disappeared from the map.
There was a need to preserve the lake and to carry out research work there in the light of the rapid pace of development including palm oil cultivation and mining in the area that can have an adverse impact on the lake, said Prof Mushrifah, the recipient of Malaysia’s UNESCO Day Award 2011.
Due to their high prices, heavy metals like manganese and chromium are being mined there.
“Therein lies the challenge for us researchers. We cannot stop people who want to mine for the metals. Our duty is to inform them on ways to reduce erosion.
“There are currently not that many people doing research on our lakes. We now have only two natural lakes left in the country, Tasik Bera and Tasik Chini.
“All the other natural lakes have already disappeared. Lakes also aged. If it is a natural lake it aged with time and the more it eroded and followed by sedimentation the more it will become silted up if no efforts are taken to preserve them,” she said.
Prof Mushrifah who got her first degree from Universiti Pertanian Malaysia (UPM) received her PhD from King’s College, London specialising in research on the rate of absorption of heavy metals in plants.
She is also the first Malaysian researcher to receive a UNESCO Fellowship for biotechnology in 1998.
Prof Mushrifah said the Centre received a RM550,000 FRGS grant to upkeep Tasik Chini as one of the lakes under the UNESCO bio-save scheme.
“We regard this as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Today Malaysia ia among the 100 countries listed in the website ‘men and the biosphere’.
“More than 100 countries are involved. There are many beneficial things that we learned like Good Governance Practices besides TCRC helping the state government to manage the lake”.
Prof Mushrifah said the East Coast Economic Rim (ECER) provided RM30 million to enable TCRC to build a green laboratory in the middle of the jungle beside the lake.
It is part of the Tasik Chini Rehabilitation Project undertaken under the Tasik Chini Development of the East Coast Economic Development Council (ECERDC) where six projects have already been completed. “The focus now is to build the laboratory”.
She said there is always a need for infrastructures. “We have the scientists, the expertise but what is most needed are equipments and other infrastructures.”
She said the laboratory can help Tasik Chini become the training centre for South East Asia since we do not have such centres in the region.
“There is also a need to build up a generation who are more inclined towards the technical fields. We in UKM put in extra efforts and funds to upkeep and preserve the areas around Tasik Chini to avoid it becoming another Tasik Mentiga.
“We do not want this to happen again. If we look at the old photographs of Tasik Mentiga it was as big as Tasik Chini but today its all dried up.”
She said that the research done at Tasik Chini was not merely for the benefit of research and science but its findings can be used in other areas including legislating new procedures for preservation since they knew the impact of development from all perspectives.
TCRC had received a RM6 million funding from PETRONAS to find ways to clean petrochemical sedimentations. The Centre made use of plants especially those around Tasik Chini to find out their effectiveness in cleaning the hydrocarbons.
Prof Mushrifah also marvelled at some foreigners doing research by living with the Orang Asli. Among the locals she knew of only one person, Prof Emeritus Dato’ Dr Hood Saleh who knows the Orang Asli very well including their languages.
“He is the only local willing to live for a long time with the Orang Asli, learning and understanding their culture. Although I sit with them but I don’t have enough time to be with them for long.
“It is different with Prof Hood who is an antropologist. I’m more in eco-toxilogy. That’s why I will try my best to help save Tasik Chini from being destroyed by development,” she said.
The eight months fellowship that Prof Mushrifah received from UNESCO brought her to Paris. “I was lucky since the fellowship allowed me to travel to UNESCO’s office. Eventually I managed to get a job in Paris in the next five years acquiring skills and experience,” she said.
Prof Mushrifah said it was also now much easier to get to Tasik Chini compared to 20 years ago. It now takes only two and a half hours by car from Kuala Lumpur.
You can either travel via the Karak Highway and on to Chenor to Tasik Chini or go through Gambang.
Tavellers can also use the SILK highway through LEKAS on to Kuala Pilah expressway and from there take the bypass through Felda Jengka passing Muadzam town before reaching Tasik Chini.