(NST) Race to save the rainforests

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PRESERVING NATURE: Over 1,000 people took part in the reforestation effort at Chamang Waterfall

BENTONG: MORE than 1,000 participants from various organisations participated in the inaugural Save Our Rainforest Race (SORR) 2013 themed A Walk Through Nature at Chamang Waterfall here recently.

The race, organised by Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam (PEKA) and the Pahang Forestry Department, was part of the effort to stop further destruction of Malaysian rainforests and encourage reforestation.

Among the participants were students from Sri Cempaka International School, Sekolah Menengah Aminuddin Baki, Advanced Management & Technology Centre (PTPL), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Inti college, MAS Academy and Samsung and HSBC bank employees.

The event was flagged off by PEKA president, Tunku Syazwan Kaiyisah Tunku Kamil-Karim and SORR 2013 chairman, Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil.

Shariffa said that SORR 2013 was an educational initiative to inform the public on the importance of protecting and conserving the rainforests.

“The public must realise that if we lose our rainforests, we will lose water and oxygen which are life-giving. So to stop this loss of life, we need to conserve and preserve our rainforests,” she said.

Overwhelmed by the turnout, Shariffa told the participants that they were in a race to save the environment as there was not much time left.

“The turnout today has changed the perception that Malaysians are not aware and do not care about the environment,” she said.

Bentong Municipal Council president Datuk Syed Mohd Nor Syed Jaafar was pleased that the first ever SORR was held in Bentong.

He concurred that deforestation of Malaysian rainforests should be stopped and reforestation efforts should be done aggressively.

“I agree that the preservation of rainforests in Malaysia ensures the continuity of wildlife as it allows the flora and fauna to multiply and grow,” he said.

Celebrities also showed their support in the fight to save the rainforest as veteran singers Zainal Abidin and television personalities Rina Omar and Sharifah Sofia Syed Hussein also made an appearance.

Before the flag-off Zainal inspired the participants with a rendition of his timeless hit Hijau.

SORR 2013 was a 10km walk through nature with the first half requiring participants to hike five kilometres uphill.

Once at the top, they planted Meranti Temar, Chengal and Merawan saplings at the designated spots and raced downhill.

All the tree saplings were donated by Concorde Hotels and Resorts and Saloma Theatre Restaurant.

Along the way participants learned about the environment by completing tasks at specific challenge booths, some located in Orang Asli villages.

The first 26 teams who crossed the finish line with the correct answers on their “passport” received prizes ranging from holiday packages to bicycles.

First-place winners were Mohammad Affindi Aludin and Vidayan Devandran while second- and third-place was won by Nik Fakaruddin Ismail, Amir Ahmad, Jasmi Khairil and Mohd Asdi Mohamad, respectively.

SORR 2013 also collaborated with RockCorps Malaysia, a non-governmental organisation that encourages volunteerism among youth to raise awareness about the need to stop deforestation.

RockCorps Malaysia gave a helping hand at the event by providing 65 volunteers to help out with the event.

Its founder and regional director Muhammad Zhariff Affandi described the race as amazing.

One of the rules of the race was that participants were not allowed to run.

“By walking we get to enjoy and appreciate the greenery,” Zhariff said.

Some participants went straight to the top as their main objective was to plant the samplings and only completed the tasks at the checkpoints after the samplings were safely planted.

Companies like Concorde Hotels and Resorts, Bistro & Theatre Sdn Bhd had a total of 117 teams comprising hotel staff and sponsored students from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Malaya and PTPL.

Automotive and defence company CME Edaran Sdn Bhd together with the Malaysian Armed Forces sponsored 216 out of the 1,056 participants.

“CME also has its corporate social responsibility and supports PEKA and the Pahang State Forestry Department for its effort and initiative in preserving nature, which is God’s gift to mankind.

“We are committed to protecting our rainforest, rivers, seas and wildlife,” said CME Group Bhd chief executive officer Tunku Nizamuddin Tunku Shahabuddin.

Other organisations that played their part in SORR 2013 were the Saloma Theatre Restaurant, Hard Rock Café Kuala Lumpur, Tanah Aina Resort, Pahang Forestry Department, Majlis Perbandaran Bentong and Alam Flora Bentong.

Ikatan Relawan Rakyat Malaysia (RELA), Jabatan Pertahanan Awam Malaysia, Polis Diraja Malaysia and Angkatan Tentera Malaysia were all on hand to ensure the participants safety.