Thursday, 11 June 2009

Lossing our mangrove

Losing our mangroves

Various development projects in Johor have carved up pristine mangroves.

IN 1980, a special report to the then Science, Technology and Environment Ministry recommended a conservation strategy through rationale use of Sungai Pulai mangrove forests in Johor. It called for a Mangrove National Park because the area is important for fisheries and is a food production zone under the National Agriculture Policy.

Some forms of conservation efforts were implemented when the Johor government in 2003 nominated Tanjung Piai, Pulau Kukup and Sungai Pulai in south-west Johor for the Ramsar list – a global initiative to conserve wetlands of international importance.

Once a sleepy hollow, south-west Johor is seeing the development of a modern township and is poised to be the jewel of the Iskandar Development Region, one of five economic regions unveiled by the Government last year.

But what is one of the country’s most productive and pristine riverine mangrove ecosystems is now being carved up for a port, power plant and soon, two petrochemical hubs. In the late 1990s, vast tracts of land on the west bank of Sungai Pulai was cleared for the Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP), followed by reclamation of 400ha of mangroves for the Tanjung Bin coal-fired power plant on the opposite bank. Public-listed Malaysian Mining Corp (MMC) holds a 70% equity in PTP and operates the power plant through its sister company Malakoff Bhd.

The latest development is an integrated petrochemical facility on 40.5ha of reclaimed island at the estuary by Asia Petroleum Hub. When it opens next year, it expects 2,000 vessel calls and will handle annually 60 million tonnes of petroleum products – industrial and marine fuel oils, diesel, jet fuel and biodiesel.

MMC, through its subsidiary Seaport Worldwide, will clear a further 902ha of mangroves for a petrochemical and maritime centre on the east bank.

The comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project was approved last July. But critics, who said that there was no public comment and expert panel review, urged for a detailed EIA, given the project size and the area being a Rank 1 “environmentally sensitive area”. Such a ranking allows only low-impact nature tourism, research and education, not development, agriculture or logging.

A fishing jetty in one of the tributaries of Sungai Pulai in south-west Johor. The reclamation of 902ha of mangrove forests along the river for a petrochemical hub is likely to affect the livelihoods of at least six riverine communities that have for the longest time enjoyed the bounty of the rich ecosystem. In the background are high tension wires that transmit electricity from the Tanjung Bin coal-fired power plant.


Johor executive councillor for environment Tan Kok Hong points out that the area is designated for petrochemical industries under the Pontian District Structural Plan (2002-2015) and PTP had acquired the land in 2001. He says the project proponent is required to replant cleared mangroves and a task force will ensure that development is carried out in a sustainable manner as the Iskandar Develop ment Region is envisioned as a green city.

PTP chairman Datuk Mohd Sidik Shaik Osman, speaking on behalf of Seaport, says the comprehensive EIA approval came with 62 conditions to safeguard the environment.

“We recognise the area has certain ecological sensitivities and we have to fulfil the conditions. Half of the land is sacrificed as a buffer between the project site and the Ramsar area, villages and rivers. As a master developer, we’ll develop the land responsibly. The individual companies will have to prepare detailed EIAs,” he says, stressing that all legal requirements are being observed.

Sidik, a director of MMC, explains that growth is imminent due to the huge demand for industrial land in the vicinity of PTP, owing to its strategic location in a busy international shipping lane.

Inaccurate claims

Criticising the EIA report, Save Our Seahorses (SOS) co-ordinator Choo Chee Kuang says the document misidentified species and lacked mitigation measures.

He says the sole seahorse species found in Sungai Pulai – the spotted seahorse (Hippocampus kuda) – was misidentified as the pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus denise). And instead of Rhizophora apiculataand R. macronata, the dominant mangrove tree species was named theAvicennia lanata.

EIA consultancy Hijau Sekitar refused comment, citing client confidentiality.

Choo argues that further disturbance in the estuary could lead to local extinction of endangered species such as the seahorse and dugong.

“The type of heavy industries proposed could cause irreversible damage to the Sungai Pulai ecosystem that harbours the country’s most extensive seagrass bed, the densest seahorse population, productive fish and shellfish nursery grounds.

“The consultant’s estimation of loss at RM4mil over 99 years has severely under-estimated the economic value of the mangrove forest. According to the United Nations Development Programme, the output of mangroves in terms of fisheries alone would amount to US$215,000 per hectare per year. That is RM200mil per year from the area earmarked to be cleared. Will the country experience more loss than gains in the long run?” he asks.

Aerial view of the Port of Tanjung Pelepas in Johor (file photo). In the late 1990s, vast tracts of land on the west bank of Sungai Pulai was cleared to build the port.

In the picture

While SOS is petitioning against further large-scale development in the area, another conservation group is collaborating with PTP. The Johor branch of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) has received RM60,000 to document the natural and cultural heritage of Sungai Pulai in a coffee-table book.

It will also work with researchers from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia to analyse water samples and map the Merambong seagrass meadow and its biodiversity.

MNS president Anthony Sebastian says the partnership compels PTP to protect Sungai Pulai and the seagrass bed: “Through engagement, the MNS is part of the process and hopes to make things better, as opposed to choosing not to participate.”

PTP’s Sidik says: “We agreed to fund research for the seagrass bed although it isn’t within our port limit. The coffee-table book is to kick-start the collaboration that will inc lude other research and awareness activities.

“We want our business to grow but we’re also willing to sit down with concerned parties to mitigate the impacts – as a responsible corporate citizen way of approaching development,” he adds.


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人民之友 对我国第14届大选意见书
(华 巫 英)3种语文已先后贴出

作为坚守“独立自主”和“与民同在”的立场的一个民间组织,人民之友在今年9月24日对即将来临的第14届全国大选投票,发表了一篇以华文书写的“意见书”,题为:投票支持"反对国家伊斯兰化的候选人": 反对巫统霸权统治!莫让马哈迪帮派"复辟"!

这篇意见书的英文译稿(标题是:Vote for “candidates who are against State Islamisation”: Oppose UMNO hegemonic rule! Prevent “the return to power of Mahathir’s faction”!)已于10月22日张贴在本部落格。马来文译稿(标题是:Undilah "calon yang membantah pengislaman negara": Menentang pemerintahan hegemoni UMNO! Mencegah puak Mahathir kembali kepada kuasa!)也已接着在11月13日在此贴出。



Pandangan Sahabat Rakyat terhadap PRU14 telah diterbitkan dalam tiga bahasa (Melayu, Cina dan Inggeris)

Sebagai sebuah pertubuhan masyarakat yang berpendirian teguh tentang prinsip "bebas dan berautonomi" dan “sentiasa berdampingan dengan rakyat jelata”, Sahabat Rakyat telah menerbitkan kenyataan tentang pandangan kami terhadap Pilihan Raya Umum ke-14 yang bertajuk "Undilah calon yang menentang Pengislaman Negera: Menentang pemerintahan hegemoni UMNO! Jangan benarkan puak Mahathir kembali kepada kuasa! " (投票支持"反对国家伊斯兰化的候选人": 反对巫统霸权统治!莫让马哈迪帮派"复辟"!)dalam Bahasa Cina pada 24hb September 2017.

Penterjemahan Bahasa Inggeris kenyataan tersebut yang bertajuk Vote for “candidates who are against State Islamisation”: Oppose UMNO hegemonic rule! Prevent “the return to power of Mahathir’s faction”! telah diterbitkan dalam blog kita pada 22hb Oktober 2017 manakala penterjemahan Bahasa Melayu telah diterbitkan pada 13hb November 2017.

Selain daripada itu, Sahabat Rakyat juga akan menyebarkan kenyataan ini seluas mungkin kepada pertubuhan dan individu semua bangsa, strata, profesyen dan agama seluruh Negara melalui email, wechat, whatsApp dan pelbagai saluran lain. Kami amat mengalu-alukan pertubuhan dan individu yang berpendirian dan pandangan sama dengan kami untuk turut menyebarkan kenyataan ini kepada lebih ramai orang!

Kami berharap pendirian dan pandangan kami berkenaan pilihan raya kali ini yang dinyatakan dalam kenyataan tersebut dapat disebarkan dengan tepat dan meluas untuk diuji dalam kalangan rakyat semua bangsa semua strata sosial melalui penglibatan mereka dalam amalan pelbagai parti politik dalam pertempuran pilihan raya umum kali ini mahupun amalan masa depan.

The Chinese, English and Malay renditions of Sahabat Rakyat’s opinions about GE14 have been published consecutively

As an NGO which upholds “independent and autonomous” position and "always be with the people" principle, on 24 September 2017, Sahabat Rakyat had released a Chinese-written statement of views with regard to the voting in the upcoming 14th General Election, entitled “Vote for candidates who are against State Islamisation: Oppose UMNO hegemonic rule! Prevent the return to power of Mahathir’s faction!” (投票支持"反对国家伊斯兰化的候选人": 反对巫统霸权统治!莫让马哈迪帮派"复辟"!)

The English rendition of this statement entitled "Vote for “candidates who are against State Islamisation”: Oppose UMNO hegemonic rule! Prevent “the return to power of Mahathir’s faction”!" and the Malay rendition entitled "Undilah "calon yang membantah pengislaman negara": Menentang pemerintahan hegemoni UMNO! Mencegah puak Mahathir kembali kepada kuasa!" had been released on 22 October and 13 November respectively.

Apart from that, Sahabat Rakyat will also make every effort to disseminate this statement as widely as possible to organizations and individuals of all ethnic groups, religions and all walks of life throughout the country via email, WeChat, WhatsApp and other channels. We welcome organizations and individuals with the same position and views to spread this statement to more people!

We hope that our position and views pertaining to the upcoming General Election expressed in the statement will be accurately and widely disseminated and also examined by the popular masses of various ethnicity and social strata through their involvement in the struggle of the 14th General Election carried out by various political parties and their practices in all fields in future.

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