THE PERHENTIAN ECO-EDUCATION PROJECT
It is often the people in the local communities who are affected by any environmental issues or practices led by the rapid expansion of the local tourism industry. Therefore, working with local stakeholders for sustainable living and community-led conservation is foremost and vital to make steps in the right direction. With this in mind, Perhentian Eco-Education Project (PEEP) - formerly known as the Ecoteer House - was established in early 2010. The project primarily focuses on educating and raising environmental awareness within the local community and on-site tourists through collaborating with other Ecoteer projects, i.e., the Perhentian Marine Research Station (PMRS) and the Perhentian Turtle Project (PTP).
the perhentian islands
Located in the South China Sea, Pulau Perhentian is 21 km off the mainland of Terengganu State on the northeast coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The Perhentian Archipelago consists of two main islands Perhentian Besar (large) and Perhentian Kecil (small). There are also several smaller islands located close to Perhentian Kecil; Pulau Serengeh, Pulau Susu, Dara Besar and Kecil and Tokong Burung.
The Perhentian Islands is currently designated as a Marine Park with a no-take zone – fishing is prohibited within two nautical miles from the lowest sea water level. The islands have a diverse coral reef ecosystem (predominantly fringing) and intertidal habitats, providing breeding, nursing and feeding grounds for numerous fish species and sea turtles.
kampung pasir hantu
The small village, Kampung Pasir Hantu located in Perhentian Kecil supports a local Malay population of approximately 2,300 residents (Reef Check Malaysia, 2017). Before the establishment of the Marine Protected Area, the majority of residents were fishermen. In the last couple of decade’s increased accessibility and developing infrastructure has facilitated the rapid growth of the tourism sector. This has seen most of the villager’s transition into tourism.
Tourism is active in the islands from March to October. The northeast monsoon season begins in November until February where the majority of locals participate in subsistence fishing as all tourism-related activities are closed. Development on the islands continues, but there is no grid-supplied electricity nor centralized sewage treatment; freshwater is supplied from the mainland. Currently, there are around 46 resorts and 20 dive operators spread around the two main islands.
WHO WE ARE
PEEP is a small-scale community project under Fuze Ecoteer located in the local village, Kampung Pasir Hantu. It is currently managed by Siti Naquiah Fadzil, the project manager with the help from project interns and volunteers.
Our primary goal is to build and maintain a healthy relationship with our local stakeholders. Only when we achieve this, PEEP can start focusing on educating and raising awareness on conservation and waste management issues. Hence, we also serve as an important platform, a linkage for PTP and PMRS to communicate their research and conservation in the village. At present, our aim is to focus on –
- Providing eco-education opportunities to the local children.
- Creating environmental and conservation awareness.
- Encouraging community-led tourism.
WHY WE DO IT
The Perhentian Island ́s shallow coral reef communities and seagrass beds are subject to a number of anthropogenic impacts, the main driver being the rapid expansion of the local tourism industry. Land-based infrastructure development, solid and liquid waste pollution and inadequate visitor management collectively put considerable pressure on these vulnerable ecosystems.
Our main focus this year is ECO-Club (Junior & Senior). All students who participate in our weekly class session undertake water-based activities, such as coral watch and kayak patrols. Our class session helps us to introduce the topic, i.e., what are corals? why are they important? how to identify them? while practical sessions help the students to learn from experience – the acquired knowledge on corals will be used to collect data on the health of coral reefs around the islands. Similarly, doing kayak patrols helps our students to improve their coral identification skills while collecting marine debris floating around the sea.
Currently, our students are in the learning phase. We hope to gradually introduce systematic data collection, identifying data trends and patterns, critical thinking, and hopefully presenting to volunteer groups and the local community.
We organise weekly English classes for SKPP students to help improve their speaking and comprehension skills. This is conducted by a teaching intern and our volunteers. We also offer tuition classes to students in Maths, Science, Bahasa Melayu using a formal school syllabus.
In the past, we ran weekly Roots & Shoots classes with the local children for community-based solutions to grand challenges per Dr Jane Goodall’s vision and legacy. Last year, the students chose ‘Rubbish in the Village’ as their topic, and we prepared lesson plans accordingly. Additionally, we held a month-long recycling competition as the finale for the Roots & Shoots programme. This year, we chose to introduce a weekly Dikir Barat class, a traditional form of musical practice which involves singing in groups, with or without musical instruments.
RECYCLING & WASTE MANAGEMENT
Beach clean-ups are a never-ending activity and we frequently conduct them to reduce as much litter as possible from our beaches. This is especially required after the monsoon season when high amounts of rubbish are deposited on the shores. PEEP collaborates with PTP and PMRS to organise a joint beach cleanup once a week.
Also, we work closely with the recycling and waste management team at PMRS to introduce and implement effective plastics and waste management initiatives around the islands. We focus our efforts on the local village while PMRS focuses on dive shops and resorts.
This year, we introduced wire mesh bins with clear signs for separating plastics, aluminum cans and general waste on both islands. In the village, the locals are gradually developing the habit of separating their waste. We also introduced a Jumbo Bag system, where all collected plastics are sorted in jumbo bags and stored in the local school. This will either be sent for recycling in the mainland or will be used for the Precious Plastics Machine.
THE PLASTIC MANAGEMENT INITIATIVE
This year, we finally set up our Precious Plastics Machine in the local school. We plan to use the machine as an educational and commercial tool for the local community. To achieve this, we organise weekly sessions for the local children to learn and experience the final process in our plastic management initiative – how the collected plastic waste is used to produce upcycled products. Additionally, we plan to encourage and train local adults to utilise the machine to generate an income source.
In 2012, we established the Perhentian Island Ladies Association (PILA) to engage the local housewives in community-led tourism for a stable income source. While the association has been disbanded, the PILA restaurant is still running, offering amazing Malay food and desserts. Additionally, we organise Kuih (dessert) making sessions and Malay dinner during our volunteer weeks, which provides alternative sources of income for the local housewives.
Also, we work and commit to a few boatmen from the Perhentian Boatmen Association for our project activities since this is easier, financially and logistically.
At present, we focus on eco-tourism awareness and encouraging eco-friendly practices as part of our community engagement scheme. This is achieved through working closely with other Ecoteer projects; we use their knowledge and understanding for direct engagement with the local community.
Hence, PEEP is not a project on its own, it is an important collaboration which relies on other Ecoteer projects to achieve its aims and objectives, and vice versa.
OUR ACHIEVEMENTS IN 2018
We focused on Eco-education and waste managment
We provided educational and financial benefit to the local community
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