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Tropical conservation biology…

Warning: This is going to be a long read, feel free to skip this post…

I so happen to read through the project details about the module, Tropical conservation biology today… I was utterly shocked by the imbalance of the project!

Now as an introduction, Tropical conservation biology is a level 4000 module, i.e. a module that most year 4 biology students will be taking. And the modules content is basically… duh, Tropical conservation biology lah what else…

The students have to work on a group project. Each group of them had to represent a certain key player, in a development project in Palau Keris, Xanadu State Government, they are:

  1. Developer
  2. State government (which is called Xanadu State government, one wonder if this country is a Federation, and imagine India has an India state, Malaysia has a Malaysia state…)
  3. Village Council A
  4. Village Council B
  5. An NGO
  6. University of Xanadu

There was a showdown today, for each key players to present for 20 minutes, in front of the President, Prime Minister, Minister Mentor and Senior Minister. Politically speaking, it means stakeholders of a local project are meeting together and trying to win the central government’s heart in favour of them…

Information about the island:

  • There are only 2 villages on the island. They are unhappy with each other, total population is… 700!
  • Size unknown, but shouldn’t be big judging from the total population, maximum 40% of Tioman Island in my opinion…
  • Distance from mainland and main city UNKNOWN, judging from the total population, it should be VERY FAR away!
  • P. Keris is UNDEVELOPED, with only craftsmen and fishermen living happily on the island

OK, I’ll include 3 “recreational” islands around the region as a “control”…

  • Bali, 5.6k KMSQ, 3m++ population
  • Langkawi, 528 KMSQ,  45k population
  • Tioman, 124 KMSQ, 3k population


Now, here goes the story… I shall write in point form:

  1. The project is “to build the ultimate romantic and eco-friendly resort island – Palau Keris”. The project is FULLY supported by Xanadu State Government.
  2. Village A and B to be relocated. School, shopping mall, hospital (!) Cultural heritage centre to be built “to resolve conflict between villages”.
    My comment:
    – Look, why are A and B unfriendly towards each other? Because A headhunting B? Because A loves to steal B’s ikan?
    – How does a shopping mall and a HOSPITAL sustain themselves, with only 700 population? Is there any developer willing to lose money by doing so?! OK let’s just say the shopping mall is actually few small kedai… the hospital is clinic…
  3. Resorts! Different grades and a cosmetic surgery hospital!
    My comment:
    Great! But you know what, the shareholders of developer company must be really rich and really really love gambling! Go do your feasibility study first OK?
  4. Mountain climbing and diving and nature trails, no complain!
  5. North-south four-lane road!
    My comment:
    – Seriously!!!!! I could borrow you my Simcity 4! Deluxe edition some more! In the game, people are told to build bigger and better road, only when there’s big congestion problems (i.e. the road’s usage is way over it’s carrying capacity)!
    – Just for your information, Langkawi and Tioman have no four-lane road, Bali has 1 four-lane expressway!
    – If there’s a North-South expressway in Tioman, driver needs only less than 30 minutes with 90km/hr to jump into northern sea from south
    – There is no developer, not even when he/she is tidak siuman (in unsound mind), would want to build a highway to support 700 villagers + about 5000 tourists (that’s if you are lucky…)! At least not in the VERY BEGINNING phase of development!
  6. New INTERNATIONAL airport and runway to be built on reclaimed land!!!
    My comment:
    – Sir, you mean you are building a HKIA??!!! The Chek Lap Kok Airport cost USD$20b, and enjoys annual passenger movements of 48 millions! HK’s size is 1.1k KMSQ with 7 millions human beings!
  7. Build series of man-made islands, with bungalows and etc, Similar to THE PALM AND THE WORLD in DUBAI!!!
    My comment:
    – And the residents taking helicopters daily to mainland! 😀
    – Palm Deira is 30km away from Dubai IA, and probably less than that from City center… and yes, they are connected through roads…


Seriously, how do you expect students who are representing developers and to some extent the Xanadu state government going to defend themselves with these CRAZY developments?! Heck I can’t even think of an argument that can nicely justify the need of four-lane road and International airport! And the information sheet also disclosed that:

The development would break even in less than 10 years, and score a net profit of USD50 billion, and then estimated USD20 billion per year for its net income!

Orchid Development Consortium should be a public listed company right? Seriously, I would sell all my shares the next day this project blueprint is unveiled…

Wikipedia reveals that:

In 2006, the number of tourists visiting Singapore reached a record number of 9.7 million as compared to 8.9 million in 2005.

Visitors spent an estimated S$12.4 billion compared to 10.8 billion in Year 2005.

You do the math OK?


I know it is never easy to come out with a “fair” and super realistic and super logical scenario. This project is VERY INTERESTING, and clearly from what I heard from students, it was FUN! But you should at least balance the scenario a little bit, so as to reduce the difficulty for the students representing development side, shouldn’t you?

If the project is to highlight the mindset of all factions in a Conservation/Ecotourism conflicts, it failed miserably in bringing out the developer’s story. It seems to me that, TPTB is trying to make every single development non-eco-friendly, to test the students how aware they are, to the damages all these development brought by. To the students representing University and NGO and probably even village council, they can just happily go through every single point and criticise for how bad they are. Yeah, fragmentation, habitat destruction, habitat degradation, threatening indigenous value and whatnot. But for the developers? Well, it seems like they are just stucked with these, rather horrendously illogical development projects…

A developer talks about cost-efficiency, amount of money that it could fork out, the risk of the development projects, the benefit of such projects, and of late, upholding the image of the company. Developers are interested in the amount of loan they could receive, the interest rates, the public relations, marketings, bureaucracy and etc. The project scenario, to me, could not bring out the developer’s concern. The idealism in this project scenario that the Rome can be built within a day, is unfortunately working very hard against the developers.

Everyone is innocent until proven guilty… But it seems TPTB decided that the developers are proven guilty, now they are just desperately trying to prove themselves innocent in the Appeal court…


Before I end this SUPER cheong hei essay (dissertation, who knows 😛 ), I would also want to highlight another set of imbalance:

Developers have problems with everyone, State governments too, but you can always say state government is also a facilitator/middle-person. Village council fears developers, bitching with another village council. NGO and University are aligned to village councils, against developers, but love and hate with state government…

The scope for developers & State government (to a lesser extent) is TREMENDOUSLY huge, but yet they are the most constrained within this project…


I hope TPTB, the Central government people could see through and take into consideration of the imperfection of the project and do justice to the students. But still, kudos to TPTB for designing such an interesting project! 🙂

Categories: Environment, Teaching
  1. April 21, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    You are like a nanny – students are adults and can cope with this – the developer with plenty of room to change plans. Just listed to arguments then scale down plans and say they were doing it for conservation. That would derail all the soundly-thought out plans by the pro-conservation faction who can now be challenged to respond to this compromise.

    Meanwhile the compromise could go ahead with building a resort hotel and golf course on a hill that destroys mangroves and causes massive seasonal siltation of offshore coral reefs during construction. And relocate “unsightly” villages in some far corner away form the best fishing sites.

    I think this fantasy scenario was based on Redang.

  2. Bentoh
    April 21, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    But now the developer has to justify the plan. You can’t deny the fact that the whole scenario, was designed to be heavily in favor of the pro-conservation faction. Apart from presenting the case, students are also expected to write a report, with facts and figures backing them. Redang, is after all like Rome, takes about 20 years to develop to its present stage, and yet Berjaya is not earning that much from the island either. I personally find it hard to justify the whole developmental plan and proposal, not even through precedence…

    Remember that students were given this whole scenario, which spelt out the developmental plan already towards a group of students, while giving other groups a huge room to play. It’s like pinning down a person, and let the others hit him/her freely without defense lah.

    From my observation, the honors student didn’t manage to cope (well) with such imbalance scenario, so much so that they requested TPTB to amend the “development plan”, to put down fair bit of weight on their shoulder. Nanny or not, the obviously lopsided coursework should be addressed and henceforth improved, if it was to reused next year.

    I personally think that the “developer” should be given a say for their plan and proposals, e.g. they are allowed to spin the story by saying this is a 20-year long term proposal, and that everything could be subjected to review from time to time bla bla bla.

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