Ponds .. from my recent trip to India March 2015


1 Comp Mahi Lake

1 Comp Mahi

Man is the only one who is not locked into his environment. Nature has not fitted man to any specific environment and from age to age, man has remade his environment.” J. Bronowski, “The Ascent of Man”

How right ?  All the images here showing man-made ponds designed to suit the owner and his preferred environment. The last seven days of travel to three cities in India enough to see the vastness in design reflecting from the ponds’ characters and their interactions with those around them.

All the ponds were designed to be ecologically correct as part of ‘unnatural‘ nature of water bodies. More to come and such challenges require knowledge and understanding of aquatic ecology and practical design.

The engineering of structures, piping, membraning, draining alone are not enough as pond management is a living term.



Another pond in the making. Effort for a more meaningful project is surely worth the time. A beautiful pond alone is not enough. It has to be productive and functional as well. As much of the ecology of home ponds, lakes and its surrounding have provide much leisure but how much have we learned to benefit without its destruction.
This year, onward and forward to Burma, the next place to acclimatise and fit into her culture. “min ga la ba”


CNY 2015

This year is going to be a real busy year with much work going on at sites, travels, paintings and an own family-retreat development.

Will be travelling far and wide in India next month and heading for Bali and Bangkok as well.

When time comes to take a break, well take a break. For the time being, lets move ahead.

Lest Not forget. The Rubber Tapper

Letchumy, the Rubber Tapper

This painting of size 48″ x 32″ took the most time to paint due to its tiny details.  Only those who knows about tapping rubber or a once a rubber tapper himself will know the intended mistake in this painting. Mural paint (acyrlic on plywood).

The Bio-filtered Pond at Mahabalipuram, India

ITC2c       Still under monitoring. A large pond with the BFS bio-filtration system

ITC1cThe pond is designed for a low maintenance and chemical free water management.

The First Giant Victoria Lily in Malaysia ?

With Dr Slearmlarp Wasuwat, Thailand

With Dr Slearmlarp Wasuwat, Thailand

victoria 2

In the late 1960s I saw the picture of Victoria lily in the Reader’s Digest for the first time. Later, the giant water lily was beautifully featured in David Attenborough’s The Living Planet in 1984.

I was introduced to Ajahn Dr Sleamlarp Wasuwat, the water lilies expert of Thailand back in 1998. He collects, studies and cross-breeds many varieties of beautiful water lilies as part of his collections. One of his favourite in his aquatic nursery is the giant Victoria amazonica. Dr Wasuwat wrote many books on the water lilies and also the planting and care of the Victoria lily. During that period, Victoria lily was not common in the Thai market and due to its large leaves of about 1 m in diameter when it is fully grown, therefore, there were not many collectors with such generosity of garden space..

When I was managing the aquatic nursery the for the Institute of Bioscience in UPM, I decided to introduce the Victoria lily into the research facilities. There was no such known Victoria lily during that time in Malaysia as I know then and I was fortunate enough to get an import certificate from the Department of Agriculture. The phyto-certificate/permit only allows one Victoria plant.

As I later learned that Victoria lily is a very difficult plant to survive upon uprooting them from the pond bed, therefore I decided to bring in three instead of one young plants for a better chance of survival rate. Each young plant would cost me about RM 600 each. Upon arrival in KL, I managed to bring all the 3 young Victoria plants back after much explanation to the agriculture officer.

After about 6-7 months in the pond, the giant leaves of Victoria lilies almost fully cover the whole pond of 500 sq.m. in area. I studied the flowers when they bloomed at night and later collected hundred of seeds that remain dormant for a long period of time.

Then one day, I received a call from the head of the Agriculture Department yelling and screaming over the phone that I have no regards to the phyto-certificate that only allowed one plant to be imported but I brought in three instead. His fear from his screaming voice was that, to his knowledge, that Victoria lily is an invasive water plants that can be spread like like ‘lalang’ (Imperata cyclindrica) or the Egyption cyperus or water hyacinth in water. For such to happen, as according to him, this Victoria lily invasion could wiped out paddy fields and destroyed the aquatic ecosystem in Malaysia. Then, I was instructed to ‘remove’ the Victoria lilies from the research facilities. I took a few young plants and planted in my own secret garden. The research facilities technician sprayed weedicides in the pond and therefore killed all the Victoria lilies just about the right time I decided to quit my post at the Institute of Bioscience.

In December 2013, I decided to make a short visit to the Penang Botanical Garden just to see the Victoria lily. I was told that the authority spent more than a million Ringgit for the Victoria lilies to be planted there. If the Head of the Agriculture Department was right then, today Penang island will be flooded with Victoria lilies right from the ponds, to paddy fields and all the drainage system but good Lord, he was wrong and therefore, the pathetic looking Victoria lilies planted in the Penang Botanical Garden look neither dead nor alive.

I’d learned a lesson though, never work with fools. “Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.”   ― Henry D Thoreau

The Victoria lily in Penang Botanical Garden. Well, judge yourself for the million RM spent ?

The Victoria lily in Penang Botanical Garden. Well, judge yourself for the million RM spent ?

Penang Botanical Garden. Some bad signs for the non-victory Victoria lily

Penang Botanical Garden. Some bad signs for the non-victory Victoria lily

Why Lampam Jawa ?

Fawzi releasing lampam jawa frys into a stream

Fawzi releasing lampam jawa frys into the stream

ตะเพียนขาว    Capture lj

Lampam Jawa, Pla Thapian in Thai, ikan tawes in Indonesian or technically once labelled as, Barbus gonionotus back in 1849, then  Puntius javanicus, Puntius gonionotus and recently Barbodes gonionotus in 1996, then Barbonymus gonionotus in 1999. Their common  names are like java barb or silver barb. In Malaysia, it is simply Lampam Jawa.

Is lampam jawa originally from Java, Indonesia ? There were reports that this fish was introduced to Sg. Perak and also in Trengganu, but anyway it is this lampam jawa that we ought to know better wherever it came from.

Back in 1989, my partner, the late Ahmad Fawzi and I were given the opportunity to run a 10-acre fish farm mainly to produce lampam jawa frys (young fish). We were given a contract to pay the rent of the farm in kind with the obligation to release 1 million frys back into natural rivers each year.

Fawzi was a keen enthusiast in freshwater aquaculture. He worked and spent much of his time in this subject honestly but unfortunately the world of businesses and the ethic of any humankind is crooked to the core. He once turned down the Colombo scholarship for further studies to pursue his love for fish farming. Over the years, fish farming in his time with me and later, without me was difficult and made worse by unscrupulous bodies and individuals who usually took advantage on his honesty. Sadly and with much regret in me, Ahmad Fawzi passed away on Dec 14th, 2013, before we can share and see the light that can bring us joy in fish farming.

With the help of a local worker, we learned and spawned the lampam jawa and produced millions of frys each year. It was a great experience and so much fun doing this without any application of artificial hormones meant for spawning inducement. It was all natural birth and for such experiences, one will never forget.

The lampam jawa flesh has fine cartilaginous bones and has to be careful when you eat this fish. Eating lampam jawa fresh from our pond is unforgettable and till today I still have in mind for lampam jawa on my dinner plate. Most freshwater fishes are quite similar in taste but from business point of view, freshwater fishes were made popular from exaggerated tales to boost its market sales. Especially the Chinese in Malaysia who are easily carried away with the mighty ‘kat-lo’ (kelah) and stupidly paid up to thousands of Ringgit for as long as it is red. These kind of businessmen are also good in naming the fish that makes it sound ‘marketable’.

Fish farming and any other businesses can surely fare well with honesty but unfortunately, unscrupulous and greedy businessmen, especially government officials and a hosts of others, polluted the industries and destroyed all those who have honest hearts for fish farming into a hell of failures. For that, we have to consume ‘adulterated’ preserved imported fishes from the sea, highly chemicalized endorsed Tilapia, giant tasteless Gariepinus catfish from Africa and almost once our rivers lost to ‘pacu’, the piranha-like fish and now the Arapaimas. Our local fishes that once identifiable with the local Malaysian culture like puyu, sepat, kalui, keli and even temakang are like all gone and their names sound very much like aliens to our urban younger generations.

Today, we can hardly see lampam jawa in urban markets though the world’s production has been steadily increased to about 100,000 tonnes a year since 2010. This is a small quantity if compared to seawater shrimps production.

In garden or domestic aquaculture that I am promoting, I welcome back lampam jawa as one of those fishes that we should care to grow  healthily in our own garden pond to provide high quality healthy protein in our diets, and please leave the Japanese Kois to the Japanese.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 264 other followers