Merotai to have wildlife rehabilitation centre
MEROTAI is rich in tourism products which can be exploited to attract tourists and at the same time open up opportunities for the locals to generate incomes. Its Assemblyman, Pang Nyuk Ming, said it is his intention to see his constituency and Tawau be developed into important tourism areas as both are slightly lagging behind in the development of the State’s tourism sector. Other than having the world’s tallest tropical tree at 88.34 metres, the area also has beautiful and breathtaking waterfalls such as the one in Tawau Hills Park and the yet-to- be-explored one at Kampung Ulu Iban. “We also have endangered animals here such as the pygmy elephants and proboscis monkeys, both are huge tourist attraction,” he said when debating on the State Governor’s policy speech on the fourth day of the State Assembly sitting yesterday. Pang said he is in the midst of setting up a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Merotai with the main aim to serve as a sanctuary for the pygmy elephants which are losing their habitat to logging activities and oil palm plantations. “A World Wildlife Federation (WWF) survey in 2003 discovered that the pygmy elephants in Borneo are a sub-species which is the smallest in the world and they number less that 1,000. I am confident that with the rehabilitation centre at Ulu Kampung Iban Iandau, the pygmy elephants will be synonymous to Merotai and Tawau just like the orangutans in Sepilok which is world famous for its rehabilitation and protection of the animals,” he said. Pang said he would also be developing the homestay and ‘one village one product’ programme in the constituency for tourists to learn more and enjoy the culture of the people here. Through the ‘one village one product’ programme, he said it would provide the locals with the opportunity to generate an income from the handicrafts and traditional cakes that they made under the programme. “I hope the relevant authorities, especially the State Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry and the Federal agencies will support me,” he said, adding development of the tourism sector would be the catalyst to the socio-economy development of Tawau and its residents. Pang also touched on the youth development in his constituency as Merotai also has its share of problems affecting the younger generation such as drugs and unemployment. He quoted the problems faced by residents in Taman Semarak where youths there have been reported to be involved in drugs and fighting. “Of course there are other areas in Merotai which have the same problems but it cannot be denied that Taman Semarak which has 3,000 houses, is facing challenges because of these social ills. Those involved were hauled up by the police but many were released,” he said. He pointed out that parents are to be blamed because they always defend their children’s actions. “Parents should realise that the action taken on their children by the law enforcers is for the good of their future,” he said. Pang suggested that deterrent action should be taken against these delinquents. First- time offenders can be left off with a warning but repeat offenders must be sent to juvenile centres so that they can be rehabilitated. He also urged the Youth and Sport Ministry to consider setting up a park for extreme sports near the Tawau Sports Complex with facilities for activities such as rock climbing, paintball and skateboarding so that youths would not get involved in unbeneficial activities. Pang also pointed out to the House about the daily traffic congestion from the old airport and Jalan Kuhara/Hot Springs roundabouts to Jambatan Putih. He suggested the Government look seriously into widening the roads in the affected areas into dual carriageways. “There are not less then 10,000 houses in the area and the existing road is the main route for parents to send their children to the 10 schools located in the vicinity. The problem will get worse as the number of housing estates along the road increases,” he said. Pang also appealed to the Government to repair the 20-kilometre Jalan Merotai/ Landau which is always flooded during the rainy season and this causes a lot of inconvenience to smallholders along the road as they are unable to transport their produce to the town. About 300 families in the area will stand to benefit from the upgrading of the road which would also help realise the setting up of the rehabilitation centre in Ulu Kampung Iban Landau. On the issue of disrupted water supply in Merotai, Pang stressed that factors such as water theft and damaged pipes had contributed to the problem. “I don’t think that I am wrong when I say that those who steal water are usually people residing in squatter colonies and this activity should not be allowed to continue as it is not fair to consumers who are paying for water,” he said, adding that water theft also contributes to low water pressure. “Deterrent action must be taken on water thieves so that those with intention to do so will have second thoughts,” he said.