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Friday, January 25, 2008

Green haven set to take shape on Pulau Banding

“WOULD you like to own a piece of the forest?” asked Yusof Abu Othman senior general manager of Emkay Group of Companies when describing the stilt-like traditional homes that will be offered in the 620-acre leasehold Pulau Banding near Gerik, Perak. The island is located in Tasik Temengor near the 117,500ha Royal Belum State Park.

According to Yusof, who is also the head of the Pulau Banding development, these niche homes with land areas of between two and six acres will be developed by MKN Group Sdn Bhd, the developer of the RM600 million Pulau Banding.

The MKN Group is part of the Emkay Group, which is founded by its executive chairman Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal Abu Bakar (pix).

“It will be a low-density development planned for 15 plots at the moment. The project is being studied and the developer will be working on a prototype unit soon,” he told PropertyPlus yesterday after the launching of the Pulau Banding Foundation and Pulau Banding Research Centre by the Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid.

The launch of the project, Yusof said, would depend on Perak’s department of environment’s approvals for the environmental impact assessment (EIA).

“We are preparing to submit the EIA and expect to receive the approval by April. Even then, we will take our time to launch the project as it will also depend on the success of the resort and research centre,” he said, adding that the public needs to be educated about appreciating eco-tourism.

Among the aims of the research centre, which will be operational in March, is to introduce, inform and educate visitors and tourists on the flora and fauna of the Belum- Temengor Rainforest.

The existing jetty at Pulau Banding will be upgraded

“Today, people easily pay more than RM1,000 psf for properties in Kuala Lumpur’s city centre. Only when they learn how to appreciate the value of the forest, only then can the land values on the island be raised,” he explained while declining to reveal the prices of the homes.

Meanwhile, the 70-room Belum-Temengor Resort will also be operational in March and the average room rates will be between RM120 and RM150, said the director of Rimba Mulia Sdn Bhd, K Mohanachandran.

Rimba Mulia has been appointed the project manager of Pulau Banding.

For the resort’s first year of operations, Mohanachandran is targeting an occupancy rate of more than 40% to consider it a success.

“We will be working with local travel agents to bring in local and foreign visitors.

We also have plans at a later stage to promote the project overseas via the foreign travel marts such as those in London and Berlin,” he added.

Meanwhile, to jumpstart the first-year operations of the research centre, Yayasan Emkay donated RM1 million for the construction, maintenance and overheads of the centre that sits on a 2.19-acre site on the island, leased from the developer.

During the press conference, Mustapha Kamal also said it is targeting some RM4 million annually for the next five years to keep the research centre operational.

“We need funds to keep the research centre sustainable and we are targeting the corporate big boys to contribute to the research centre as part of their corporate social responsibility,” he said, adding that it will be inviting companies as well as the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to visit the island soon.

Pulau Banding will be developed in two phases over 10 years. The first phase will comprise hospitality and residential projects, recreational facilities and the research centre.

By theSun (by Loo Pik Kwan)

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