Monday March 11, 2013
Vital mangrove swamp in Balik Pulau being cleared, say fishermen
By OH CHIN ENG
GEORGE TOWN: A 12ha mangrove swamp in Kuala Jalan Bharu, which played a vital role in reducing the impact of the 2004 tsunami, has been cleared to make way for an alleged shrimp breeding project’s extension.
Fishermen claimed that the mangrove located along the coastline of Balik Pulau and standing between the shrimp ponds and the sea had been cleared by the shrimp farm owner.
Fisherman Thor Poh Lye, 78, said he found out about the mangrove clearing about two days ago, but believed the work had been going on for a week now.
“The mangroves must not be chopped down. The swamp played a vital role during the tsunami disaster. It reduced the impact of the waves when they hit our village.
“If the trees are gone, there will be no shield to protect us during a natural disaster. Our houses could be destroyed,” he said at the site yesterday.
Kuala Jalan Bharu Fishermen Unit chairman Redzun Mat, 49, was worried for the area’s eco-system if clearing of the mangroves continued.
“Our income has been affected because there are fewer crabs, cockles and sea snails along the coastline.
“When we wanted to use the trees to build oars, we were warned against it by the authorities. But now, the trees are gone,” he claimed.
Pulau Betong assemblyman Muhammad Farid Saad who visited the scene said the land was rented out to a shrimp farm entrepreneur in 2003 after complying with the guidelines from several government authorities.
“I spoke to the owner on Friday and he has agreed to stop work temporarily,” he said.
The mangrove area was also a habitat for monitor lizards, monkeys and migratory birds.
State Forestry Department director Abdul Wahab Deraman said that although there was no report lodged on the incident, the matter would be investigated.
“If the expansion is on the owner’s land but the guidelines are breached, the landowner can be held liable,” he said.