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DEVELOPMENT APPROACH AND MANAGEMENT STRATEGY OF LANGKAWI GEOPARK

Published:Feb 28,2008

Kamarulzaman Abdul Ghani1, Mohd Shafeea Leman2, Norhayati Ahmad2, Ibrahim Komoo2 & Kasim Othman3 

1 Langkawi Development Authority, 8th Floor, LADA Building, 07000 Kuah, Lamgkawi, Kedah, MALAYSIA.
2 Institute for Environment and Development LESTARI, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 Bangi, Selangor, MALAYSIA.
3 Kedah State Forestry Department, 8th Floor, Bangunan Sultan Abdul Halim, 05646 Alor Star, Kedah, MALAYSIA.


Abstract
The acceptance of the concept of Langkawi Geopark by the Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) and the State Government of Kedah is driven by a common aspiration for achieving sustainable development and an appreciation of the outstanding geoheritage resources between both parties and the Malaysian Geological Heritage Group (MGHG).  The Langkawi Geopark as Malaysian first national geopark was established by the Kedah Legislative Council on 31st May 2006 and later on 6th October 2006 endorsed by the Board of LADA.  Since then the Langkawi Geopark Division has been specially created under the management of LADA with support from an Advisory Council, chaired by the Chief Minister of Kedah, and four coordination committees, namely scientific, development, conservation and promotion.  These committees play important roles in advising LADA and other stakeholders on various aspects of geopark development, particularly on scientific research input, planning for future development, recommendations of areas or sites for conservation and promotion of Langkawi Geopark locally and internationally.  This paper will highlight on development approaches and management strategies for Langkawi Geopark since its establishment.

Keywords: scientific, development, conservation, promotion, Langkawi Geopark, Malaysia

 

INTRODUCTION
As the pathfinder in the country, Langkawi Geopark has its own history and development strategy. In a country with complex multi-tiers governing structures like Malaysia, supports from multiple agencies are crucial in order to promote any new development concept, particularly those related to conservation such as the geopark concept. This needs continuous efforts and right approaches to create interest among the various potentially responsible agencies. The establishment of Langkawi Geopark has resulted from this close corporation between various government and non-government agencies. In this case, the acceptance of the Langkawi Geopark concept by the Langkawi Development Authority or LADA and the State Government of Kedah is driven by a common aspiration for achieving sustainable development and an appreciation of the outstanding geoheritage resources between both parties and the Malaysian Geological Heritage Group (MGHG). 


LANGKAWI GEOPARK DEVELOPMENT HISTORY
The declaration of Langkawi as a Free Duty Island in 1987 has turned Langkawi Islands into a lively islands with rapid development in tourism infrastructure, but it was the formation of LADA in 1990 that has actually led to the formation of Langkawi Geopark. Since then, the potential of Langkawi’s nature and natural landscapes have been identified as assets and focuses for tourism development in the islands (Majlis Daerah Langkawi 1992, Majlis Perbandaran Langkawi 2002). With this determination, LADA had worked hand-in-hand with various government agencies, local universities and non-governmental organizations in order to promote Langkawi's rich natural resources for eco-tourism purposes. In 1996, MoU was signed between LADA and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) allowing the latter to spearhead research activities related to the sustainable development of natural resources for eco-tourism development in Langkawi. At the same time, the Malaysian Geological Heritage Group (MGHG) was established to promote initiatives on conservation of national geological heritage, where the group's activities are housed in the Institute for Environment and Development LESTARI, UKM.  UKM's endeavour in promoting Langkawi’s splendid geoheritage resources of national and regional significant has led to the formation of Langkawi Research Centre (LRC) in 2002 with research theme focused on the formulation of Langkawi Geopark.

Intensive multidisciplinary scientific researches were carried out on Langkawi Geopark potential since 1999, along with nationwide roadshow towards better understanding on geoheritage conservation and Geopark concepts (Komoo 1999, 2002; Rahman et al 2004). In order to achieve desired outcome, MGHG fostered close relationship with various government agencies and public sectors as well as the NGOs. With strong support from various federal and state government agencies, in 2004 the geoforest park concept was introduced to take care of geological heritage conservation, particularly in Langkawi (Ismail et al 2004).  Eventually on 31st May 2006 the Langkawi Geopark was established by the Kedah Legislative Council as Malaysian first national geopark. The langkawi Geopark was officially endorsed later on 6th October 2006 by the Board of LADA.


LANGKAWI GEOPARK MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE
In conjunction with the formation of Langkawi Geopark, the Langkawi Geopark Division has been specially created under the management of LADA with support from Advisory Council, chaired by the Chief Minister of Kedah, and four coordination committees, namely scientific, development, conservation and promotion. See Figure 1 for the Langkawi Geopark management chart.  The Langkawi Geopark Division is manned by professionals in three main areas, namely geologist, administrative officer and infrastructure/facilities officer. The composition of coordination committees involves members of the public or government agencies as well as the private sectors and non-government organizations. Government sector agencies include the Departments of Mineral and Geoscience, Forestry, Environment, Heritage, Muzeum, Education, Tourism etc. The private sectors and NGOs include hotel associations, tourist guides and tour operators. These committees, as and when necessary, shall also include individuals and activists in the field of environmental care, socio-economy, community development and culture.   

Advisory Council
Langkawi Geopark Advisory Council composed of Head of various State and Federal Government Departments and is chaired by the Chief Minister of Kedah. This council is basically functioned as the advisory to other committees, to ensure that Langkawi Geopark always moving on the right track, i.e. promoting sustainable development and tourism hand in hand, without depriving the needs for local socio-economic development. 

Scientific Committee
The Scientific Committee is responsible in providing advice and suggestion on scientific aspects of the geopark for purposes of development, conservation and promotion. In order to achieve this task the committee regularly organises scientific and multidisciplinary research expeditions and seminar forum as well as publishing research finding in various forms of media.  The committee comprises of various research bodies interested in sustainable development of Langkawi's natural resources and Langkawi Geopark, from several higher learning institutions and research arms of federal and state government agencies. Currently, the head of Malaysian Geological Heritage Group chairs this committee.

Development Committee
The Development Committee is responsible in planning and supervising the development of infrastructures necessary for research and education, conservation, recreation and eco-tourism purposes. It is important for this committee to ensure that infra-structural developments within the geopark are nature friendly and beneficial to local socio-economic development. The committee is also responsible in planning adequate permanent infrastructure to support basic needs of the local people. It is also important for this committee to support certain local cultures and traditions and to develop and promote them as part and parcel of geopark activities. Members of this committee comprised of representatives from various implementation agencies at district level as well as representatives from the local public. This committee is jointly chaired by the General Manager of LADA and the Langkawi District Officer. 

Conservation Committee
The Conservation Committee composed of representatives from various relevant state government departments and law inforcement authorities and is chaired by the Head of Kedah State Forestry Department. The committee is responsible in recommending areas and objects for conservation within the geopark and updating on the current state of conservation to the various components of natural resources. The committee is also responsible in identifying suitable nature-based recreational sites. It is also given the task to spearhead the activity on enriching public awareness towards the importance of nature conservation.

Promotion Committee
The Promotion Committee members comprised of representatives from various government agencies and private sectors involved in tourism development of the region. It is chaired by the General Manager of LADA. The main responsibility of this committee is to ensure adequate promotion is given for Langkawi Geopark and its products such as geopark trails, monuments and geosites, both for local and international tourists. The committee is also responsible in ensuring that the promoted message does not contradict with the effort to promote nature- and knowledge-based tourism in Langkawi.  


LANGKAWI GEOPARK MANAGEMENT PLANS AND STRATEGIES
Generally, the formation of the various committees and the Advisory Council of Langkawi Geopark reflects the strategy adopted by the Langkawi Geopark management. Apart from concentrating on immediate development within the geopark, LADA as the management authority of Langkawi Geopark will continue to foster close corporation from various research-oriented agencies including the Langkawi Research Centre and conservation centred government agencies including the Forestry Department to support immediate and future development of Langkawi Geopark. Many non-government agencies and private sectors are also given responsibilities to look after the geopark, and most importantly there are rooms created for involvement of the local public in Langkawi Geopark activities.

As a new geopark, LADA has to come out with both immediate and long-term plans and strategies to ensure the sustainability of Langkawi Geopark. The immediate or fast-tract development planned are to:   
 Establish four technical committees; Scientific, Development, Promotion and Conservation to plan relevant activities for the initial stage of geopark, to be implemented within the next three years.
 Strengthen the Langkawi Geopark Division, particularly to recruit the human resources to manage the planned activities of Langkawi Geopark.
 Develop basic infrastructure, particularly geopark trails, information panels, directional signage and information centres.
 Provide geoheritage and geotourism information for all relevant stakeholders.
 Establish several geosites as local or national conservation sites.
 Train management resources and tourist guides on various approaches and skills to implement and promote Langkawi Geopark.

For the long termand sustainability of Langkawi Geopark, LADA planned to:
 Establish new policy and strategic action plan for the implementation of Langkawi Geopark through combining the original concept of Langkawi Development and the concept of Langkawi Geopark.
 Establish management plan for three Geoforest Parks, particularly with regards to conservation and sustainable use of resources.
 Create new nature tourism products, with regards to geotourism, biotourism and culture tourism and formulate strategies for better public participation in geopark activities.
 Increase research efforts toward characterization and assessment of geoheritage, biodiversity and cultural heritage for conservation and sustainable tourism.
 Implement long-term infrastructure development needed to strengthen the establishment of Langkawi as a UNESCO Global Network of National Geopark, such as Langkawi Natural History Museum, several focused galleries, interactive centres and other infrastructure for geoconservation and bioconservation.
 Set up a monitoring system, particularly on conservation, environmental degradation, carrying capacity, and other environmental issues.
 Establish Langkawi Geopark as the nucleus for development of national and regional geoparks, for international networking.
 Establish Langkawi Geopark as a comprehensive reference point internationally, e.g. Langkawi can be the centre for training on various aspects of management and promotion of the geopark.   

SUMMARY
Langkawi Geopark, obviously has a long history of development and has much to improve in the future in order to be established as a world renown geopark. All these could only be achieved with close corporation between researchers, policy makers, responsible private sectors and the public. With the present kind of enthusiasm from all parties involved, the vision of LADA to make Langkawi Geopark a reference points to others should not be far sighted. 

REFERENCES:
Ismail, S.M., Komoo, I. & Leman, M.S. 2004. Geo-forest park: an innovative approach towards geological heritage conservation within permanent reserved forests of Malaysia. In Leman, M.S. & Komoo, I. (eds.) Geological Heritage of Malaysia - Theoretical Framework and Assessment of Geoheritage. LESTARI UKM Publication, Bangi, 243-250.
Komoo, I. 1999. Geologi pemuliharaan Kepulauan Langkawi. In Komoo, I. & Leman, M.S. (eds.) Geological Heritage of Malaysia - Conservation Geology for Geotope Development. LESTARI UKM Publication, Bangi, 3-31.
Komoo, I. 2002. Geotaman Langkawi: Konsep dan strategi perlaksanaan. In Komoo, I. & Leman, M.S. (eds.) Geological Heritage of Malaysia - Research and Development of the Geoheritage. LESTARI UKM Publication, Bangi, 42-51.
Majlis Daerah Langkawi 1992. Langkawi Structural Plan 1991-2005.
Majlis Perbandaran Langkawi 2002. Langkawi District Local Plan 2001-2015.
Rahman, A.A., Othman, M. & Komoo, I. 2004. Langkawi Geopark: Development concept, strategic planning and implementation approach. In Leman, M.S. & Komoo, I. (eds.) Geological Heritage of Malaysia - Theoretical Framework and Assessment of Geoheritage. LESTARI UKM Publication, Bangi, 231-241.

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