KUALA LUMPUR: The research work on tropical limestone karst landscapes that will be carried out under the University-Industry Research Consortium aims to safeguard Malaysia’s unique and precious heritage while contributing to sustainable development.

University-Industry Research Consortium director Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Ibrahim Komoo said this is because the research involves various disciplines, including experts in earth science, biodiversity, landscape and geoheritage, conservation geology, and sustainability, thus ensuring a thorough study of geological, ecological, and cultural aspects for informed decision-making on conservation and resource management.

“The presence of karst landscapes in Malaysia is very limited, less than three per cent, and their use as an important construction and industrial resource causes resource utilisation to face continuous conflicts between industry players and the public.

“That is why this research holds great significance for Malaysia on multiple fronts. The unique and captivating limestone hills in these landscapes possess aesthetic and educational value, attracting cultural and tourism interests. They also hold rich biological, historical, and archaeological heritage, preserving the nation’s past and natural diversity,” he told Bernama here.

Launched on Oct 26, the University-Industry Research Consortium is a collaboration between YTL Cement Bhd and the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) and involves Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Pahang Al-Sultan Abdullah, Universiti Malaysia Sabah and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.

Under the five-year cooperation, YTL Cement will provide scholarships to 40 Masters and PhD students through the consortium to conduct research on sustainable tropical limestone karst landscapes with matching grants from MOHE over the next five years, while the universities will serve as hubs of research excellence that can offer resources, facilities, and academic expertise that contribute to high-quality research.

Expecting the outcomes of the research to have far-reaching implications for the sustainable management and conservation of these unique environments, not only in Malaysia but potentially worldwide, Ibrahim said the Research Consortium is also a progression of an earlier YTL Cement’s initiative.

This is because since 2014, YTL Cement has been proactively conserving the southern part of Gunung Kanthan in Perak (today known as Bukit Kanthan Geosite), and in 2017, when the Perak state government declared Lembah Kinta as a National Geopark, they worked with a team of experts to map out and delineate the boundary of the Bukit Kanthan Geosite for purposes of conservation.

He said, this move, in light of the state government’s effort to promote balanced, sustainable development, has placed YTL Cement as the first and only company in Malaysia doing conservation at an active quarrying site, which he believed should be emulated by other organisations.

“The Research Consortium began with an intent to enrich knowledge on the sustainability science of the country’s vital earth resources from the perspective of balancing resource needs and the importance of preserving natural heritage.

“A significant motivation for this research stems from the profound recognition of the vital role that limestone karst landscapes play across multiple industries. These unique geological formations serve as invaluable resources, impacting sectors such as construction, tourism, and more.

“The vision was to encourage multi and trans-disciplinary research, which will allow information to be used by planners and policymakers to determine the suitability of resources for heritage conservation or sustainable utilisation. This is to achieve an important balance between conservation and development,” he added.

On the reason for choosing postgraduates for the research rather than industry experts, Ibrahim said postgraduate students have the acquired knowledge and skills in their specific fields of study to be applied in a real-world context.

“This can lead to new insights, innovative and creative solutions that industry experts might overlook due to their established ways of thinking. On the other hand, this will prepare academics to be industry-ready,” he said.

More importantly, Ibrahim noted that such a move would also ensure a mix of fresh ideas between the post-graduate students and industry experts, academic resources, long-term engagement, and cost-efficiency, thus contributing to a holistic and comprehensive approach to the issue at hand.

“Another key outcome is the development of comprehensive strategies for conserving and responsibly managing these landscapes. Over the course of five years, we can expect to see tangible progress in striking the right balance between conservation and sustainable development, leading to practical, actionable approaches.

“This collaboration will yield practical policy recommendations based on the research findings. These recommendations could encompass land use regulations, safety standards, and sustainability practices, providing a roadmap for informed decision-making regarding the sustainable management of these unique landscapes,” Ibrahim said.-Bernama

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