Wednesday November 4, 2009
‘Green’ shrimp farm
By CHEW WAN YING
SETIU: The 1,000ha shrimp farm project in Terengganu will not affect the environment and wildlife, claims Blue Archipelago Bhd, which is in charge of the project.
The project, known as the Integrated Shrimp Aquaculture Park (iSHARP), is located in Penarik, near here. Setiu is a breeding ground for the endangered river terrapins.
In an interview with The Star in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, chief executive officer Dr Shahridan Faiez addressed the concerns raised by environmentalists and Setiu residents regarding the environmental impact of the project.
The company had gone the extra mile in making sure that the project was environment-friendly, he said, adding that those who were against the project were misinformed.
“We have taken a proactive stance. We are the first aquaculture farm in the country to conduct a detailed environmental impact assessment (EIA) for our project,” he said.
One of the major concerns raised is the discharge of salt water — an essential component in breeding shrimps — into Sungai Caluk, the river adjacent to the project site.
Critics believe that this would affect the river’s salinity and its ecological system.
“When we were designing the farm, we had considered various options. We opted for Sungai Caluk because it is a river where sea water comes in and goes out, as it has two openings into South China Sea (one at Setiu and the second one at Merang).
“On that basis, we do not think the discharge of salt water will contribute a significant impact on the environment,” he said.
He added that 24%, or 243ha, of the project site would be allocated as a green lung, while two hectares of land would be allocated for the River Terrapin Conservation Centre.
“The 243ha equals 500 football fields. You will never find this in any other shrimp farm,” said Dr Shahridan.
A buffer zone of between 120m and a kilometre, which is above the legal requirement of 50m, had been established at Sungai Caluk to protect the riparian vegetation along the river, he added. The vegetation is a primary food for the terrapins.
“Prior to this, we conducted extensive public consultation and workshops, and met with WWF-Malaysia, non-governmental organisations and key stakeholders.
“We went down to the ground and interviewed families staying within 5km radius from the project site,” Dr Shahridan said.
He said Blue Archipelago was also working with the Environment Department to come up with an intensive environment monitoring programme for iSHARP.
“We are marketing our products to the international market, where there are many powerful environmental groups, especially in Europe.
“We would be shooting ourselves in the foot if the project causes damage to the environment in any way,” he pointed out.
Financially, iSHARP will give Setiu a new lease of life, said Dr Shahridan.
“It is one of the poorest regions. The average household income among those staying around the project site is RM500.
“There are all kinds of problems pertaining to education attainment and employment,” he said, adding that iSharp would create 1,500 jobs.
“Job opportunities will be provided in all aspects of the supply chain, from the hatchery, grow-up farm and feed-mill to the processing plant. The plant especially needs women workers and this will help the single mothers,” added Dr Shahridan.
He said the shrimp farming industry was facing the challenges of fluctuating product price and a new global trend where the requirement for food safety was higher than ever before.
He hopes that iSHARP will attract local shrimp farmers and be a platform for them to upgrade their skills and market their products to the world.
“In Malaysia, the aquaculture sector is not growing as well as in Thailand and Indonesia.
“Most local shrimp farmers can’t sustain their businesses, financially and ecologically. Most of them are unable to invest in infrastructure and the know-how.
“By joining iSHARP, they will be able to do so. This will help the local industry grow,” he said.
Dr Shahridan estimates an annual revenue of RM100mil from the project, which is slated to begin operation in June next year.