Malaysian Eco Warrior

London Evening Standard – Friday, 5th February 1999

PAUL MANSFEELD awards five Stars to a Malaysian eco warrior.

The Malaysian island of Langkawi needs all the eco help it can get, as new hotels spring up along the coastline and the mass tourism descends. Enter Irshad Mobarak, 39 a sort of one man band in the cause of conservation on Langkawi.His small company leads guided rainforest tours. Good humoured and articulate. Irshad first function, he says is damage limitation. “We can’t stop new hotels going up. But if we can keep them on the coast, we can save the interior”. His methods are traditionally Malaysian. “Its important to show respect to elders, and not be rude. You try to persuade people not alienate them”.

Irshad persuasiveness and his popularity can be judged by his number of clients. On the day I met him at the posh Datai resort, no fewer than 16 guests had risen from their beds before dawn to accompany him into the rainforest.

One of Irshad’s cleverest ideas is a tree and mangrove planting scheme, but he also plans to introduce electricity powers boats on his tours, and to press the government to crack down illegal foresters. All this might seem noble but naïve. Amazingly though, its working. Doctor Mahathir Mohammed, Malaysia’s prime minister, has announce that development in Langkawi should slow down and what Dr. Mahathir wants, he usually gets. “With the Prime minister on your side”, says Irshad, “anything is possible”.

From: Highbeam