GEORGE TOWN: A nature lover has claimed that the seawater used to put out forest fires on Penang Hill and Bukit FRU can harm the trees.
Gurdial Singh said that while the water bombing of the forested hills using Bombardier planes was effective, the high salinity of seawater was harmful to hill trees.
“Unlike trees in mangrove swamps, trees on the hill are not accustomed to salty water,” the Penang Hash House veteran runner said yesterday.
Malaysian Nature Society (Penang branch) chairman D. Kandakumar, however, said the amount of salt in seawater was too small to kill the trees.
“There are not many choices of fresh water in Penang and the easiest to obtain is seawater.
“The most important thing is to put out the fires which are more damaging to the trees,” he said, adding that water bombing forest fires with seawater was a common practice everywhere.
Penang Fire and Rescue Department director Azmi Tamat declined to comment on the matter.
“We just want to put out the fires as soon as possible,” he said.
A Bombardier plane belonging to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency made at least 20 trips to get seawater off the coast at Gurney Drive here for the water bombing missions, dumping up to 6,000 litres at a time.
There had been several fires on Penang Hill, Bukit Gambier and Bukit FRU since last Tuesday. They have all been extinguished.
Fire and Rescue Department personnel and voluntary firefighters faced a tough time putting out the fires, in addition to trekking up steep trails to get to the sites.
With no source of water in the hills, they also had to use fire beaters. Where possible, they created portable dams to draw water from rivers and channel it to jet shooters.
The causes of the fires have yet to be determined but Azmi had earlier said that the hot and dry weather could be a factor.