PETALING JAYA: A shrimp aquaculture park project in poverty-stricken Pitas, Sabah, is mired in controversy with some of the local villagers protesting against the clearing of mangrove forests to pave way for the project.
Orang asli Mastupang Somoi, 49, from Kampung Eloi, said his people could already see environmental repercussions stemming from an alleged 404ha of mangrove forest destroyed near their village early last year.
He said the felling of mangrove forests would also wipe out the natural resources collected by villagers for their daily livelihood, including fish, shellfish, prawns and snails.
“We want the project stopped as we are already feeling the effects from the clear-felling done last year. Losing our mangrove trees will only add to the poverty our future generations will face,” said Mastupang, who is one of the community leaders of his village.
In addition, he said that the cleared area had been home to many proboscis monkeys, the mascot of Visit Malaysia Year 2014, noting that the primates now seemed traumatised and afraid of humans.
Local media in Sabah reported that the company, Sunlight Inno Seafood Sdn Bhd, was slapped with two RM30,000 compounds and stop-work orders last year after it clear-felled the area without an approved Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.
When contacted, chief executive officer Cedric Wong King Ti said that the area cleared was 283.3ha and not 404ha as claimed, adding that Kampung Eloi was not even included in its shrimp park development plan.
The project will be located around Sungai Telaga and falls within the native territory boundaries of Kampung Datong, Kampung Kuyuh, Kampung Manggis and Kampung Telaga.
The area cleared last year was on the edge of Kampung Datong and Kampung Eloi, the latter of which is located along Sungai Eloi, a tributary to Sungai Telaga, which flows out to sea.
“At the moment, we are no longer felling any trees pending the EIA result, but we are carrying out flood and erosion mitigation work as well as building roads on the area cleared last year,” he said.
Wong said that the majority of the villagers involved in the project were supportive of the company, which had been involved in a similar integrated shrimp aquaculture project in Perak for the past 35 years.
He said the company would do its best to minimise any environmental effects while balancing the need to create sustainable returns for investors as well as maintain sustainable livelihoods for the locals.
The project, a joint undertaking between Yayasan Sabah Group and Sunlight Seafood (Sabah) Sdn Bhd under Sunlight Inno, is expected to generate around 3,800 jobs.
It will include a hatchery, a production, research and development laboratory and a training centre.
It will focus on the commercial production of Pacific White shrimp, with work already kicking off to create 1,500 shrimp ponds in an area measuring around 1,214ha.