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Going green has permeated in every aspects of modern peoples life,

including tourism. People nowadays yearn to retreat from the city and return
to the more exhilarating nature, be it to enjoy the magnificent scenery,
discover the wonders of nature, or just take a step back from stressful work
and study life. Hence, the demand for ecotourism had increased over the
years. Across 196 countries, Malaysia, which consists of 60% of tropical
rainforests, has gained its popularity as a haven of ecotourism as it provides
a shelter for incredibly diverse array of flora and fauna. Furthermore,
Malaysia's reputation as a premier ecotourism destination is further
strengthened by the inclusion of the Gunung Mulu National Park (Sarawak)
and Kinabalu Park (Sabah) in UNESCO's World Heritage Sites List (Malaysia
has emerged as a leading tourism haven, 2011). Such remarkable sanctuary
of ecotourism had attracted a huge influx of tourists to discover it, hence
ecotourism has boosted Malaysias economy over the years, which directly
accounts for 4.8% of GDP and 4.9% of employment. Unfortunately,
ecotourism in Malaysia has created negative impact on the environment.
Even though a few strategies were done to address the problem, the current
solution is inadequate in directly reducing the effect, and better initiatives
needs to be proposed. This essay will discuss on how ecotourism in Malaysia
affects the environment, and the evaluation of current solution towards the
negative impacts will be done along with synthesizing new ideas to refine the
current solution.
Ecotourism in Malaysia leads to the several negative impacts towards
environment and environmental degradation is the main adverse effect. Due
to inappropriate management techniques which the satisfaction of tourists is
given priority, the ecosystem and wildlife had been heavily destroyed by
human activities. One of the obvious illustration of this phenomenon happens
in Cameron Highlands, in order to accommodate more tourists, more touristfriendly infrastructures such as hotels and access routes are built on
ecotourism spots, which results in deforestation and uncontrolled logging.
Consequently, extinction of wildlife is imminent due to loss of habitat. For
instance, hornbills are at the verge of extinction at Belum-Temengor Forest
Complex because the fragile ecosystem are unable to sustain the survival of
these birds due to deforestation (Koshy, 2012). Furthermore, increased
human presence may lead to disturbances to the wildlife due to uncontrolled
human activities such as improper waste treatment, excessive usage of
electricity and water as well as air and noise pollution caused by vehicles
(National Ecotourism Plan 1997, 1997). To be concise, destruction of
ecosystems, depletion of natural resources and extinction of wildlife had
caused deterioration of the forest environment.
In order to counter the negative effect, the balance of conservation and
development has become the main concern of Malaysian government. To
achieve this equilibrium, development of ecotourism spots need to be done
with minimum impacts to the environment. To foster both environmental
conservation and development, several plans had been proposed and

executed by Ministry of Tourism Malaysia such as National Ecotourism Plan


1997. The plan had provided several guidelines such as basic criteria for
maintaining the ecotourism sites for conservation of natural wildlife. For
example, the restructure of management of Endau Rompin, was done so that
the catchment sites at Endau River, forest resources and wildlife are being
protected (National Ecotourism Plan 1997, 1997). Resource management
was revamped by categorising the forest area into strict forest area,
wilderness recreation area, managed natural area, intensive use area and
buffer zones as well as reforestation of disturbed areas so that the damage
inflicted to the environment can be alleviated. Besides the management of
resources, administrative development was done by building park
headquarters site which contains office and information centre so that the
progress of the current management can be monitored anytime. With the
proper guidelines, the negative impact caused by ecotourism can be
mitigated.
While National Economic Plan seems viable, however the plan only
emphasises on refining the management which might only reduce the
negative impact indirectly. In other words, the plan doesnt provide a
comprehensive solution to tackle the problem. Economic benefits are given
priority instead of environmental benefits. The success indicator of the plan is
based on overall economic yield instead of the conservation of natural
resources, and the feasibility of a project is based on economic potential and
development. For instance, further development will be done at Taman
Negara as proposed in National Economic Plan, and the project is very
feasible based on business opportunities and development of private sectors,
despite it had brought negative effects towards the ecological balance
(National Economic Plan1997, 1997). In addition, the environmental
management in Malaysia, in reality, is rather loose and constrained to
particular areas only. Mohammed (n.d) has supported this claim by stating
that only the national and state parks, forest reserves and wildlife sanctuaries
were gazetted by various laws and regulations, and other ecotourism spots
were lenient in terms of management. Hence, an enhancement in
management of ecotourism spots does not directly eliminate the negative
impacts towards the environment.
To address the weakness in the National Economic Plan, a new plan which
focuses on the sustainability of the environment should be proposed. The
plan shall include direct strategies such stricter enforcement of laws and
regulations. For example, Natural Forestry Act 1984 has given state
government the authority to appoint officers responsible for imposing heavy
penalty to those who had developed forest areas illegally. Indirect initiatives
can be included in the plan too such as promote sustainable tourism to the
public and educate the visitors about the importance of conservation of
wildlife. Besides that, the success and feasibility indicator of a project should
be based on a balance between tourists welfare and preservation of nature.

In a nutshell, even though ecotourism in Malaysia has reap economic benefits


towards the country, its negative impact towards the environment is
undeniable. If this issue is not addressed seriously, Malaysia will eventually
lose its reputation of ecotourism haven. However, if initiatives were taken to
tackle the negative impact, with further improvements and consistent efforts
channeled in, ecotourism will be sustainable and more revenues can be
generated for the country.