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April 05, 2006
"Despite its overwhelming biological diversity and tropical ecosystems, Malaysia lacks lakes. There are only two natural freshwater bodies in the entire country: Tasik Bera and Tasik Chini. Most of the others are the result of manmade dams and former tin
In 1995, Tasik Chini was dealt a near fatal blow in an attempt to increase tourism. This oxymoronic consequence illustrates the failure of consultants to recognize the delicate nature of lake ecosystems and the often-indelicate decisions of bureaucrats.
Sediments from logging and oil palm estate clearance ended up in the lake, causing some sections to become too shallow to ferry tourists during the two-month dry season. Thus, boatmen requested a rise in the water level by building a dam. One year after dam
construction, thousands of trees rimming the lake died due to inundation. Fish that used the lake to nest and breed were cut off; hence species such as arowana and the giant featherback were exhausted………………………..
Bishan Singh, a tireless activist in his sixties, sits on a stump in front of seventy school children seated on reed mats in the compound of a Jakun village in Kampung Putut. He has several messages for the youngsters. "Everyday we are confronted with ecological
destruction," he tells the attentive faces before they embark on a tour of the lake. "Every campaign needs a hero, someone who is brave enough to take action." After 20 years of teaching and decades more working with grassroots community groups, Bishan has
seen many heroes emerge. "You can do ordinary things and become extraordinary."…………….
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