Geology students do their bit to conserve the Niah Caves

Park warden Encik Haidar briefing Sarawak Forestry Corporation rangers and Curtin students at the start of the cave cleanup

Park warden Encik Haidar briefing Sarawak Forestry Corporation rangers and Curtin students at the start of the cave cleanup

Miri – 10 April 2012 – 46 geology students of Curtin University, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak), accompanied by 5 academic staff, recently carried out their first-ever ‘Curtin Cave Cleanup’ to help conserve the Great Cave and Painted Cave at Niah.

According to applied geology senior lecturer Dr. Dominique Dodge-Wan, the operation at the world-renowned caves located some 80 kilometres from Curtin Sarawak’s campus in Senadin was carried out “to help return a small area of our vulnerable planet Earth to its original unpolluted state.”

She added that the idea to organise a cleanup of the caves was conceived during recent research work done at the Niah karst area where Curtin Sarawak’s geology students have been surveying caves.

Dr. Dodge-Wan also remarked that the event was in line with Curtin’s ‘Make Tomorrow Better’ tagline, as well as its environmental sustainability efforts.

“I was very impressed by our students’ dedication and enthusiasm during the cleanup. They worked tirelessly both above and below ground in the caves and removed a large volume of waste from the areas we covered. I am sure these students will be able to contribute much to society in the future,” she said.

The operation was supported by the Sarawak Forestry Department and Sarawak Forestry Corporation, which assisted in identifying the areas of priority underground. Their staff also helped guide the students through the caves and coordinated the large group comprising five teams. Curtin Sarawak’s University Life Department also lent its support to the event.

The cleanup ran smoothly with the support of the Head of the Department of Applied Geology, Associate Professor Dr. Franz-Luitpold Kessler, and under the guidance of three senior lecturers Dr. Dodge-Wan, Dr. Ramasamy Nagarajan and Dr. M. V. Prasanna from the department. The Head of the Department of Petroleum Engineering, Associate Professor Dr. Moacyr Batholomeu Laruccia, and Research Fellow of the Curtin Sarawak Research Institute, Dr. Merlin Franco Francis, also lent a hand.

During the course of the day, the students removed over 30 large bags of refuse from the caves. They consisted mainly of drinking water bottles, discarded batteries, food wrappers and some bulky waste such as old cables. Most of the accessible parts of the Great Cave as well as both the Upper Painted Cave (famous for its wall paintings) and the lesser-known Lower Painted Cave were cleared of all visible refuse.

Sharp waste such as glass and tins was carted away in strong sacks while lighter waste was discarded in garbage bags. The waste was removed from the caves and carried by students to Niah Park Headquarters for disposal by Sarawak Forestry Corporation.

“The park rangers and our staff did an excellent job of keeping the students safe and motivated in the difficult conditions of the cave. At the end of the day, I believe all the students had a great sense of satisfaction and gained a deeper understanding of the particular vulnerability of the caves and karst environment, as well as the need to protect this valuable geoheritage,” remarked Dr. Dodge-Wan.

For more information on Curtin Sarawak and the Department of Applied Geology, visit the university’s website at www.curtin.edu.my. Curtin Sarawak can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CurtinUniversitySarawakMalaysia.

One of the five teams of geology students en route to the Great Cave

One of the five teams of geology students en route to the Great Cave

Curtin Sarawak students and staff posing with some of the refuse they removed from the caves

Curtin Sarawak students and staff posing with some of the refuse they removed from the caves

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