Tasik Chini's status as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) Biosphere Reserve is up for a periodic review and the government will have slightly more than a year to act on recommendations to maintain its status.
Unesco, through its Media Services Unit, told Malaysiakini a list of preliminary recommendations was shared with the relevant Malaysian authorities on May 18.
"The periodic review of Tasik Chini Biosphere Reserve is indeed ongoing. A report was examined by the International Advisory Committee for Biosphere Reserves, which provides scientific and technical advice to the programme.
"These recommendations were shared with the Malaysian authorities on May 18. Once they are approved, the authorities managing the biosphere reserve will have until September 2022 to comply with the advisory committee’s recommendations," it said.
It added that the report and recommendations will be made public in September when the final draft is approved.
Tasik Chini in Pahang is the second largest natural lake in the country and home to a rich bio-diversified lush tropical wilderness.
In 2009, Unesco declared the area, which is home to hundreds of species of flora, non-aquatic life, and freshwater fish, as one of its biosphere reserves. Under the programme, every reserve will be subjected to a periodical review every 10 years.
However, it was recently highlighted that Tasik Chini has been troubled with destruction to its environment caused by deforestation and mining activities, which continued to happen despite the Pahang government's pledge to rehabilitate the area.
This includes a royalty-linked mining project that was recently approved by authorities.
An environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the project also showed that there are several other ongoing mining concessions in the area, many of which are close to Tasik Chini.
Malaysiakini also reported that Tasik Chini had yet to be officially gazetted as a permanent forest reserve despite the state government announcing the gazettement in 2019.
Delisting as last resort
Environmentalists have recently warned that Tasik Chini may lose its biosphere reserve status should pollution in the area continue.
According to the Unesco Man and the Biosphere Programme's statutory framework, a biosphere reserve can lose its status if it no longer satisfies the criteria to be qualified for designation.
However, the organisation in its email to Malaysiakini stressed that delisting is only considered as a last resort after all other avenues have been exhausted.
Referring to Article 9 of the framework, Unesco said the programme's Intergovernmental Coordination Council (ICC) may recommend to the state concerned to take measures to ensure their biosphere reserves conform with provisions that outline the criteria.
The committee would also indicate to the programme's secretariat what actions it should take to assist the state.
"Should ICC find that the biosphere reserve in question still does not satisfy the criteria contained in Article 4, within a reasonable period, the area will no longer be referred to as a biosphere reserve which is part of the network," said the statutory framework.
Losing Tasik Chini's biosphere reserve status, one of the first sites in the country to be accorded such recognition by the UN, will affect Malaysia's international image in the protection of the environment, among others.