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  New Straits Times 15 Aug 07
Firm to work with environs groups
R. Sittamparam

New Straits Times 2 Aug 07
SOS to save Sungai Pulai estuary
By : R. Sittamparam

New Straits Times 26 Jul 07
Malaysian fishermen fight to save livelihood
By R. Sittamparam

GELANG PATAH: Fisherman Abdul Rahman Salleh put his 11 children through school on the money that he made catching fish in the Sungai Pulai estuary. He even bought a low-cost house in Desaru, from the income that he made selling the grouper, snapper, pomfret and lobster that he landed.

But these days, he has little to show for hours of work. "Today, we’re lucky to catch a handful of prawns," said the 55-year-old chairman of the Kampung Ladang Hujung Fishermen’s Club.

Abdul Rahman, who represents 500 fishermen from Pendas to Gelang Patah, has been forced to sell his house to make ends meet. He said the estuary’s bounty has been in decline over the last 20 years following the construction of a port, bridge and power plant.

As if that were not bad enough, there are now plans to build an industrial estate in the area which will host heavy industries. These include makers of plastics, paints, pesticides and chemical products. There will also be a chemical incinerator and facilities to process toxic and hazardous wastes.

Part of the development eats into a 91sq km area that is gazetted as protected wetlands under the Ramsar Convention. More than 900ha of mangroves could be cleared and 15ha of submerged land along the river’s west bank reclaimed, according to the mandatory study on the project’s environmental impact.

This could cause some 500 families living here to lose their traditional way of life and source of income.

"For many generations, we have depended on the estuary for our livelihood. We have a right to be consulted first," said Abdul Rahman.

The development could also threaten the estuary’s wildlife, such as the spotted seahorse and dugong.

Twenty years ago, a substantial tract of mangrove forest was cleared to build the port and power plant.

This resulted in heavy silting which led to heavy growth of seaweed. This, in turn, blocked sunlight filtering down to the sea grass beds, reducing the amount of food that was available to fish, prawns and dugong. Fish stocks fell.

Catches were so small, the club’s deputy chairman Hanuar Isa, 41, could not afford to pay for repairs to his boat. He said the seaweed itself posed a big problem, snarling fishermen’s nets.

Let down in the 1980s by unfulfilled promises of compensation, the fishermen now oppose the new project.

"We won’t be silent anymore and will do everything in our power to halt this plan," said Abdul Rahman.

New Straits Times 2 Aug 07
SOS to save Sungai Pulai estuary
By : R. Sittamparam

PONTIAN: "The marine world needs friends — don’t let development destroy the Sungai Pulai estuary. I’ve been there and seen the seahorses."

This plea from Sara Lourie of Canada echoes the feelings of more than 500 people worldwide who responded to a campaign by local environmentalists to save the estuary.

The online petition by Save Our Seahorses (SOS) action committee has collected more than 500 signatures in a bid to stop a local company from building a chemical industries estate at the estuary.

The estate, to be built on 913ha of cleared mangrove land, will house heavy industries producing plastic, paints, pesticides and chemical products. There will also be a chemical incinerator and facilities to process toxic and hazardous waste.

SOS action committee chairman, Choo Chee Kuang said response to the petition was overwhelming and he was confident that in a couple of days, SOS would reach its target of collecting 5,000 signatures.

"We want the Department of Environment to review a Comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (CEIA) report done by a consultant for the development of the estate.

"We feel the CEIA does not adequately assess the consequences of having such hazardous industries in an ecologically sensitive area like the Sungai Pulai estuary."

SOS’ petition since its posting on Monday evening, has seen a stream of responses from as far as Romania.

Elena Gageanu from Romania says: "Let’s not wonder anymore about the cause of floods, earthquakes, tsu-namis, dry climate, rising temperatures and maladies happening lately... Continuing the destruction of ecosystems such as the Sungai Pulai estuary will only lead to our own extinction!"

Jarina Mohd Jani from the United Kingdom said: "I had the opportunity to discover the wonders of the giant seagrass bed at the Sungai Pulai estuary and am devastated to hear that the proposed development would destroy it. Hope the decision makers would reconsider."

The local response was also loud and clear with A. Thiruchelvam saying: "Let’s not destroy everything in the name of development as our children and grandchildren will ultimately pay for our greed."

The federal and state Department of Environment have remained silent on the matter.

New Straits Times 15 Aug 07
Firm to work with environs groups
R. Sittamparam

JOHOR BARU: The developer of a proposed petrochemical and marine industries estate at the Sungai Pulai estuary has agreed to work with local environmentalists to assess the impact of the project on the estuary.

It will also abide by Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman’s recent order that a detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) be conducted on the project site near the estuary which is home to the dugong and seahorse.

Representatives of Seaport Worldwide Sdn Bhd met with officials from the Malaysian Nature Society, Johor (MNSJ) branch, yesterday to convince them that the project would be a sustainable one.

A spokesman for the developer said the meeting with MNSJ chairman Associate Professor Dr Maketab Mohamed and adviser Vincent Chow had been a fruitful one.

"MNSJ agreed to support our project if we look into the preservation of the environment and biodiversity at the estuary. "We are willing to work with MNSJ and other environmentalists and are now looking at doing a DEIA at the project site to show our transparency and commitment to preserve the environment."

The spokesman said Seaport Worldwide would carry out the project in the same environmentally-friendly manner that it had developed the Tanjung Pelepas Port (PTP).

"We complied with all the environmental regulations in developing the port, including helping to preserve the habitat of the seahorse at Pulau Merabong. "We’re now working to monitor the seagrass bed in the area and run environmental awareness programmes for children."

PTP was bestowed the Partnership in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia award in recognition of its safety, health and environment systems.

The developer’s representatives will be meeting with the Save Our Seahorses action committee chairman Choo Chee Kuang for discussions today. Maketab said he assured the developer that local environmentalists were not against the project but wanted to ensure it was environmentally sustainable.

"We’re happy that the developer has agreed to do the DEIA in place of the less stringent EIA that it had done earlier. "It is also encouraging that this time around the developer will be considering the feedback from local environmental groups."

Seahorses in Peril a petition by the Save our Seahorses group in Malaysia for the Pulai shores threatened by development

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