Mapan looks to Pulau Ketam as a potential eco-tourism destination
BY DANIAL FAUZI
One might have heard stories and legends of an isle paradise untouched by man. The story goes as a sailor on a doomed voyage was shipwrecked and washed up ashore on the beaches of an uncharted island. The sailor looked at his surroundings; clear blue water, lush palm trees and wildlife roaming freely. Indeed, a paradise befitting the legends.
However, the reality is harsh. Some islands, with pristine waters and lush palm trees, can be considered paradise. Still, due to humanity’s addiction to expanding further and exploiting natural resources wherever it goes, these tropical paradises also fell victim to overexploitation and pollution.
Even remote areas such as the Marianas Trench are not spared from this hubris.
But this does not mean it is too late to undo man’s damage to these pristine sites. However, this task is not easy, nor should it be taken lightly. The need to lower humankind’s carbon footprint and restore the Earth is the pinnacle in ensuring a future for both the planet and humankind.
Therefore, the need to take action to ensure the decrease of the carbon footprint in the coming generations often starts from within; the necessity of behavioural changes and mindset of the current generation towards a greener future and the need to instil a sense of passion for the future generation to carry the torch for years to come.
LOW CARBON ISLAND PROJECT
Pulau Ketam (Crab Island) is a small island near Port Klang, Selangor. The island was founded around the 1880s. Around 2,000 inhabitants call this island their home, with two Chinese villages founded around the same year.
The island is no stranger to the rising tides. Hence, the villagers adapted by elevating their houses and other buildings up to 10 metres high enough to escape the waves. Mainlanders and tourists who wish to visit the island do so via ferry.
Here, visitors can treat themselves to fresh seafood from rows of restaurants in the villages. Visitors can also rent battery-powered motorcycles to traverse the island quickly.
Despite this, Pulau Ketam possesses the potential to be a self-sustainable low-carbon island. The islanders certainly have the drive towards a paradigm shift, but the Malaysian Association of Public Advocacy for Nature (MAPAN) is the one to nudge them.
Ben Ong, chairman of MAPAN, and his team recently visited the island and think Pulau Ketam has what it takes to be a self-sustainable low-carbon island. However, for this project to become a reality, the islanders must embrace change and possess the ability to adapt to those changes.
GROWING A GREEN THUMB
Although Pulau Ketam’s primary food source is from the sea, the island still relies on obtaining other food supplies from the mainland. This includes vegetables and fruits for the islanders’ consumption.
“The main idea of this low carbon island project is improving productivity through decarbonisation. Because when you reduce your carbon footprint, you reduce the steps you take to do work. By doing so, you systemise whatever work you do,” said Ben.
Therefore, the idea that Pulau Ketam could possess the ability to grow their crops through agriculture would be a massive boon to both the island’s sustainability and the health of the surrounding environment and the planet.
Dr Juju Nakasha Jaafar, senior lecturer of University Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Vertical Integrated Mixed Farming Head of MAPAN, pointed out that Pulau Ketam is the perfect candidate to capitalise on agriculture, or more specifically, agrotech, which is the combination of agriculture and technology.
“Products from these farms will support the local economy and the population. From farm to plate, importing from external sources is unnecessary. When there’s a surplus, the local community can use it where they see fit,” said Dr Juju.
During MAPAN’s visit to the island, Dr Juju presented various and unique methods on how the islanders can grow their crops for local consumption.
These range from horizontal and vertical hydroponic systems, Dutch bucket cultivations and even the ambitious but expensive aquaponics that filters waste from fish in fish tanks to be used on the plants.
THE ‘KETAM’ IDENTITY
When one thinks of Paris, France, the Eiffel Tower comes to mind. Likewise, when one thinks of Australia, one would picture the Great Barrier Reef.
Ar Lee Chor Wah, Cultural Head of MAPAN, emphasised this during MAPAN’s visit to the island.
Besides the prospect of achieving a low carbon footprint and self-sustainability, the picturesque and isolated location of Pulau Ketam presents a unique opportunity for eco-tourism. However, this method of tourism would differ from the usual modus operandi.
“Although tourists would come to Pulau Ketam for seafood, more can be done in the tourism sector. Rather than taking pictures of scenes and with the crabs, Pulau Ketam can encourage tourists to sketch their experiences through illustrated journalism and share their experiences online via social media to attract other like-minded individuals to Pulau Ketam,” Lee explained.
Illustrated journalism is nothing new. Although considered a niche art form, illustrated journalism has recently gained traction, primarily through local associations such as KL Sketch Nation and the Sasaran Art Park.
Rather than taking traditional photographs of picturesque settings, tourists could illustrate their experiences through sketches. This form of illustrated journalism could give Pulau Ketam its own identity to associate with. This identity will only grow if Pulau Ketam stays the course for a low-carbon future.
“Art classes and excursions can also come to Pulau Ketam, but we cannot play the waiting game. Pulau Ketam needs to incentivise these tourists to visit Pulau Ketam or invite them here personally. Art can also be a form of therapy to provide self-reflection and healing,” Lee added.
Lee also pointed out that Pulau Ketam could also sweeten the tourist deal by providing their arts and souvenirs, such as little crab trinkets, for the tourists to take home and remember. The islanders could explore this avenue of art later on their road to sustainability.
However, despite the potential low carbon and self-sustainable opportunities that the islanders of Pulau Ketam can capitalise on, none of it will come to fruition unless the islanders start looking inward as a community to adapt to change.
“This is extremely important,” stressed Au Choon Wai, ESG consultant of MAPAN.
“Because a community without physical and mental strength and, more importantly, heart and soul would not get anything done. Consultants like us are here to advise, but ultimately, it is up to the people within the community to make the change.”
Should they wish to take this journey towards a low-carbon and sustainable future, the islanders of Pulau Ketam must adhere to a set of standards that would guide them. The United Nations placed this set of standards through Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Au pointed out that a country can’t attain all SDGs, even for Pulau Ketam. Therefore, he advised that the islanders focus on what is attainable. One of these achievable goals is quality education for the younger generation.
Dr Juju attested to this notion because of the need for education in the field of agrotech. MAPAN stressed that Pulau Ketam needs to attract visitors to the island and their younger generation to stay on the island to contribute to their community.
“Goods are getting expensive because other countries have stopped exporting food to Malaysia. Consequently, there is a need for the younger generation to be more interested in agriculture and agrotech to cultivate their crops for self-sustainability,” Dr Juju added.
Additionally, with the noticeable effects of climate change looming over the horizon, adapting to the changes is more important than ever.
Au pointed out the challenges that the islanders of Pulau Ketam will face towards a low carbon future would be great. However, as island and village communities are tightly knit and have a strong camaraderie, he believes Pulau Ketam can overcome those challenges.
“This is no longer a statement. This is already true,” expressed Au on the status of climate change.
Therefore, baby steps need to be taken towards a greener future. However, each little effort goes a long way to ensure that the planet and humanity have a future for generations. – @ESG