From ex-min­ing land to trop­i­cal oa­sis

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Fiabci 2017 -

IT took more than a decade to re­store a 400-acre bar­ren ex-min­ing land into a lush trop­i­cal par­adise.

Back in 2002, the piece of un­du­lat­ing land in Gam­bang, Kuan­tan, was heav­ily de­graded and the soil com­po­si­tion was per­ma­nently changed due to pre­vi­ous sand and tin­min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

What was left on it were gul­lies, small lakes and ponds.

A great amount of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive ef­fort was needed to trans­form the en­tire land to be able to sus­tain a nat­u­ral ecosys­tem.

With great de­ter­mi­na­tion to fix the land, Datuk Franky Chua, who is the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Franky Group, to­gether with his team, started the process of soil re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion by in­tro­duc­ing top­soil to fer­tilise the ground.

Empty fruit bunches were brought to the site from the nearby palm oil mill to slowly de­cay be­fore be­com­ing a thin layer of top­soil.

Over­time, more empty fruit bunches, palm ker­nel shells, trunks and leaves were left on-site to de­com­pose, op­ti­mis­ing soil com­po­si­tion for plant­ing. Or­ganic fer­tilis­ers were also used to neu­tralise the soil.

Soon af­ter, the land was ready for the plant­ing of dif­fer­ent trees and the process of con­tin­u­ous plant­ing led to to­day’s trop­i­cal oa­sis.

Chua ex­plained that re­turn­ing the land its pri­mor­dial sta­tus as a jun­gle has helped the eco-bio­di­ver­sity within the sur­round­ing area and also brought back old habi­tats of indige­nous birds.

“We have sourced many jun­gle trees and plants from nurs­eries and hand­picked cer­tain ones to at­tract spe­cific birds such as horn­bills and wild mag­pies.

“A visit from Ta­man Ne­gara’s Bird Group last year showed that there are now over 80 species of birds ex­clud­ing mi­gra­tory birds,” he said.

Chua shared that among other chal­lenges faced dur­ing the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion process were soil ero­sion and po­ten­tial flood caused by mon­soon as well as low wa­ter lev­els dur­ing dry sea­sons.

“Wa­ter con­trol gates were placed around the re­sort to con­trol wa­ter lev­els of lakes and wet­land ar­eas.

“Rain­wa­ter is chan­nelled into a well-like struc­ture that serves as a wa­ter re­serve tank while wa­ter will be chan­nelled out into the lakes dur­ing drought pe­riod.

“As for nor­mal days, these flood gates will reg­u­late wa­ter flow into the down­stream habi­tats to sus­tain the ecosys­tems in lakes and wet­land ar­eas,” he ex­plained.

A slope and river bank pro­tec­tion sys­tem was also built to pre­vent ero­sion, re­duce im­pact on the sur­round­ing habi­tat and pro­tect the ex­ist­ing aquatic ecosys­tem.

Ex-min­ing ponds were beau­ti­fied and re­ha­bil­i­tated in the cur­rent serene lake­side, bring­ing back a habi­tat for wildlife.

As the land be­came re­ha­bil­i­tated, the beauty and tran­quil­ity of the place fondly re­minded Chua of his child­hood en­vi­ron­ment, af­ter which he had a bun­ga­low built within the place for re­tire­ment.

“Later on, I had a change of mind.

“I was think­ing, why not build a small and sim­ple re­sort where peo­ple can en­joy the peace­ful en­vi­ron­ment?,” en­thused Chua.

What was ini­tially a sim­ple plan with a small-scale veg­etable farm and or­chard for re­tire­ment use is now built into a na­turein­spired re­sort named Man­gala Re­sort and Spa, which opened its doors early last year.

“Man­gala means well-be­ing in San­skrit and I hope the place brings com­fort, har­mony, peace, tran­quil­ity and pos­i­tive en­ergy to guests,” he added.

To­day, Man­gala Re­sort and Spa has be­come a bliss­ful re­treat from the daily grind.

Em­bed­ded in the palm oil es­tate and sur­rounded by stun­ning nat­u­ral sur­round­ings, the 62-acre re­sort fea­tures a range of re­lax­ing villa ac­com­mo­da­tion that com­bines pri­vacy, tran­quil­ity and lux­u­ri­ous flair.

De­signed to in­te­grate into the re­vi­talised land­scape, the low-den­sity re­sort com­prises four Wet­land (Sara) Cot­tages, 11 Wa­ter (Jala) Vil­las and 16 For­est (Vana) Vil­las, with 34 Or­chard Vil­las and five fam­ily vil­las on the way, slated for com­ple­tion in the first quar­ter of next year.

Guests can in­dulge into lux­u­ri­ous spa treat­ments at the spa com­plex where dif­fer­ent herbs are planted around it to pro­vide a nat­u­ral aro­matic scent and some used in some of the treat­ments.

“Upon em­bark­ing on this project, I be­gan to un­der­stand na­ture more. Na­ture can be dan­ger­ous, like ero­sion, but at the same time, it can be re­ward­ing.

“For in­stance, if you can de­vise nat­u­ral so­lu­tions that do not harm the en­vi­ron­ment to pre­vent dis­as­ters such as soil ero­sion and re­tain the ex­ist­ing free flow of wa­ter, the na­ture will slowly re­turn its favour and the re­sult can be very re­ward­ing, look­ing at how it is trans­formed into what it is to­day,” said Chua.

“To be a cham­pion is easy, to main­tain is tough. There are still a lot of chal­lenges and con­tin­u­ous hard work ahead,” added Chua.

On pro­tect­ing Mother Na­ture, Chua pointed out that ed­u­ca­tion is cru­cial to re­ha­bil­i­tate or pro­tect Mother Na­ture.

“It is im­por­tant for peo­ple to know that no mat­ter how much or lit­tle the con­tri­bu­tion, it helps to­wards a brighter fu­ture for both na­ture and us,” stressed Chua.

The great deal of time and ef­fort put into Man­gala Re­sort and Spa have earned the oa­sis a highly ac­claimed Fiabci Malaysia Prop­erty Award 2017 for the En­vi­ron­men­tal (Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion/Con­ser­va­tion) cat­e­gory.

“This award def­i­nitely gives us a lot of in­spi­ra­tion, mo­ti­va­tion and recog­ni­tion,

“We hope this award does not only ben­e­fit the re­sort but also de­liver a mes­sage to ev­ery­one else that con­serv­ing na­ture is re­ward­ing.

“Hope­fully, this pres­ti­gious award will in­spire those in the same in­dus­try,” con­cluded Chua.

An aerial view of the Wa­ter (Jala) Vil­las and the re­sort’s sur­round­ing area. (Left) An in­te­rior view of one of the For­est (Vana) Vil­las.

A Wet­land (Sara) Cot­tage fac­ing a scenic lily pond.

A view of the Spe­cial Bun­ga­low.

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