With climate change increasing extreme weather events in Malaysia, and the demand for land to construct roads and houses leading to unsustainable land use on steep inclines, the intersection between watershed management, ecosystem services, biodiversity and human wellbeing isn’t merely an academic concern – it has become a matter of life or death.
With funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and support from UNDP, the project involves Malaysia’s Ministry of Environment and Water, the Department of Irrigation and Drainage, and two NGO partners (Global Environment Centre and Forever Sabah), to protect the river system and to conserve the rich flora and fauna that local communities rely on.
Malaysia has some 157 river systems, as well as a variety of tropical wetlands, forests, and marine ecosystems, representing several Global 200 Ecoregions. Recognized as one of 17 mega-diverse countries in the world, its river systems and forests support an immense diversity of aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity. These ecosystems include more than 600 freshwater fish species, all stitched together into a protective web of ecosystem services, from clean water and food production to erosion control and flood prevention.
The Upper Kinta River Basin (Perak) covers an area of about 18,000ha above Ipoh city in Perak. The project’s focus is on the management of the upper catchment of Sg Kinta, which is important for both biodiversity conservation and water supply purposes. The pilot initiative, through the use of nature-based solutions, has been using bio-engineering techniques to reduce soil erosion and subsequently to prevent sedimentation downstream, as well as improving the livelihoods of indigenous communities in the area.
This work has involved a range of local stakeholders with an emphasis on engaging and empowering Orang Asli indigenous communities. In addition to actively improving environmental awareness and river pollution monitoring, Orang Asli community members were trained and employed in the bio-engineering work supporting slope erosion mitigation and control in the selected portion of upper catchment.
Further to the technical and capacity building workshops, four bio-engineering sites were established, and a nursery for bamboo and other relevant plants for mitigating soil-erosion was established at Orang Asli Kampung Pawong Village.
For the first time ever, at the Fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA5) the world agreed on a formal definition of nature-based solutions. This ground-breaking resolution made it clear that to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, it's time for strengthened action to protect and restore nature. This UNDP Malaysia project shows the value of engineering with nature. Read the full story here.