Langkawi UNESCO Global Geopark, Malaysia’s first established Geopark, holds outstanding geological features, is rich in biodiversity with rare mangrove species found throughout the area, and rich in socio-cultural heritage. Langkawi Geopark fast became a nature-based tourist destination which unfortunately also led to an increase in demand for development. Langkawi Geopark was selected as one of UNESCO Sustainability Science demonstration sites to showcase how environmental education can deliver better ecotourism outcomes through improved environmental and water management.
Under the project, to understand current situation, water quality sampling and laboratory analysis were carried out from 15 stations of selected rivers and tributaries around Langkawi Geopark showed that all stations were categorized under class I or II (clean and slightly polluted), indicating that that present freshwater resource can be utilized with some treatment. However, based on dialogue, discussion and interviews with local stakeholders, the rapid development currently taking place in Langkawi to cater for the tourism needs have contributed towards major water and environmental sustainability related issues within the past few years. Key environmental issues of Langkawi Geopark have been identified after extensive stakeholders’ dialogue and questionnaire data collection in order to gather local communities’ point of view. The issues are: (i) solid waste management/rubbish; (ii) sewage discharge; (iii) water quality deterioration; (iv) lack of awareness; (v) land clearing/forest area reduction/mangrove exploitation; and (vi) tourism and recreation activities.
Based on these findings, pathway towards sustainability to promote sustainability science practices at the Langkawi Geopark were established, which include:
- The establishment of a Community Learning Alliances for Sustainability Science (CLA-SS) in Langkawi as education centre
- The identification of four Sustainability Showcases for promoting sustainability science practices in Langkawi Geopark to be coordinated under the umbrella of Langkawi Research centre (LRC) of LESTARI, UKM, which are (i) Local Community participation in Natural Resources Conservation and Management at Kilim Geoforest Park; (ii) Water and Environmental Sustainability Practices; (iii) Socio-Cultural Heritage Preservation; and (iv) Interaction between Local Authority and Local Community in Langkawi Geopark.
These showcases will produce better coordination and integration of local authorities and local communities in Langkawi in order to preserve and conserve water and natural environment of Langkawi Geopark. Such an approach is suggested as the identified water and environmental issues in Langkawi can only be solved through trans-disciplinary approach.