Friday October 26, 2012
Junaidi: Don’t build new houses too near river banks
KUCHING: New housing development should not be too near river banks so as to avoid human-crocodile conflicts.
Santubong MP Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said developers must follow the Land and Survey Department’s guideline which required buffer zones between a river and area to be developed.
“I can’t remember off-hand what the required reserve or buffer zone is but it is quite substantial. This is to allow our nipah and mangrove forests to grow and allow fish and prawns to populate,” he said.
Nothing much could be done for villages and longhouses that were built near the river banks because in the early days, the people depended on the rivers for transport, water and food supply, he said.
Many rural dwellers still relied on rivers to this day and they must be forewarned of possible crocodile attacks so that they would be extra careful, he said after a meeting with Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) officials here yesterday.
The meeting was called after several reports of crocodile attacks in Santubong constituency, the latest being in Bandar Baru Samariang two days ago.
It was reported that a 2m crocodile might have attacked a cat late Tuesday evening and four others that belonged to the same owner earlier this month.
Junaidi, who is Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker, said he supported the effort by the state to create crocodile-free zones (CFZs) under the crocodile strategic management plan for Sarawak.
He believed that removing crocodiles in heavily human populated areas would not upset the ecology balance.
“Crocodiles thrive in our rivers because we have been protecting our nipah and mangrove forests which provide these animals with food such as fish and prawn,” he said.
He also supported the state government’s plan to downgrade crocodiles from Appendix I to II in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Since the crocodile population in Sarawak had increased to the extent of endangering the people’s safety who lived near and depended on rivers, it was time to downgrade the crocodile status so that these reptiles could be controlled, he said.
He said this was particularly obvious in his constituency with 601 crocodiles sighted in Santubong, Bako, Buntal and Selesong rivers during a survey by SFC.
“If crocodiles are placed in Appendix II, they can be culled for the sake of public safety. But we can’t just kill the crocodiles for nothing. Under Appendix II, we can sell crocodile meat and skin for commercial returns outside the country,” he said.
“Such commercial ventures will come with certificates that say the crocodile-related products came from legal sources,” he said.
Appendix I of CITES protects species threatened with extinction, permitting trade in specimens of these species only in exceptional circumstances, while Appendix II allows controlled trade to take place.
To date, Junaidi said, SFC had conducted studies on 11 rivers including Batang Sadong, Batang Samarahan, Sarawak River and its tributaries and they all showed a marked increase in the reptile’s population.
He hoped that the crocodile status would be downgraded in the coming CITES meeting in 2016 and in return would encourage some entrepreneurs to start new business ventures.
“The market is limitless,” he said, adding that crocodile skin shoes and bags could sell for a whopping RM2,000 to RM6,000 in Kuala Lumpur.