GEORGE TOWN: Penang Hill and its surrounding areas could be accorded recognition as a Unesco Biosphere Reserve within the next two years, according to the Penang Hill Corporation (PHC).
PHC general manager Cheok Lay Leng said the Cabinet has recently approved the paperwork for the application submitted by the energy and natural resources ministry.
“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 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 12,481 hectares of land.
He added that PHC had defined the core zone, buffer zone and transition zones clearly, and areas that need to be preserved.
The Penang Hill area contains virgin jungle reserves which have 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.
Chow said Unesco recognition would benefit all Penangites and become another selling point for Penang Hill to attract more visitors.
“I hope it will have the same effect as the Unesco recognition of George Town as a World Heritage Site. 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.