PETALING JAYA: The Sabah state government has been urged to review the 1983 decision to gazette a huge area of mangrove forest in Pitas, Sabah, for aquacultural development.
Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Sabah-based council member S.M. Muthu said this review was important as scientists had affirmed the crucial role of mangrove forests in protecting coastlines against strong winds and waves.
According to WWF-Malaysia’s website, mangrove forests are natural barriers against tsunamis and storms, preventing salt water from entering rivers, providing valuable resources for coastal communities and are important breeding grounds for marine life.
About 3,600ha of mangrove forest in the area was gazetted for aquaculture development.
Work is underway to construct a shrimp aquaculture park in the poverty-stricken Pitas district by Sunlight Inno Seafood Sdn Bhd, a joint venture by Yayasan Sabah Group and Sunlight Seafood (Sabah) Sdn Bhd.
Proponents of the project describe it as a means to boost economic activity by creating an estimated 3,800 jobs in the district through the Economic Transformation Programme managed by Pemandu.
Muthu stressed that any project involving the state government had to set a standard for others to follow, adding that all procedures must be done according to the law.
“Do not use the reason of uplifting the people’s income as an excuse for raping the area.
“There are other ways to do it, including holding a dialogue to ensure the communities understand what is happening,” he said.
He added that if shrimp farming were really viable, the project should be given to the villagers for them to operate as cooperatives on a small scale to ensure no damage was done to the environment.
Sabah’s former Manpower and Environmental Development Minister Datuk Yap Pak Leong had expressed doubts about the project last December as shrimp farming had failed many times in the past due to the high price of feeds, pollution and uncontrollable diseases.