KUANTAN: The threat of the monsoon season is deterrent enough. Seeing the sea turn red has left business owners along Kuantan’s beaches staring at a huge blow to business.
Tomyam restaurant owner Ahmad Zawawi Mustaffa, 36, said business had improved during the school holidays, but many literally did a U-turn when they saw the red sea phenomenon.
“Orang nampak air, terus je pusing (visitors turned right around when they saw the water),” said Zawawi, whose store has a good view of the South China Sea.
He noticed the unusual colour when he was opening shop at around 8am. The water continued to turn into a murky, dirty yellow well into the afternoon.
A day-long deluge on Monday is believed to have caused bauxite dust from the many mining areas to wash into rivers leading to the sea.
Stall owner Wan Faizrul Wan Mohd Fadzil, 31, said he had seen the waters getting murky during the monsoon, but this was the first time he had seen the water go red.
“Saya tengok pun takut (Seeing it gave me chills),” he said, adding it was likely to scare tourists even more.
Grocer Mohd Idrus Hamzah, 35, said the beach was popular with families both locally and from outside the state.
The father of two said he would not let his children swim in such water, and did not expect any parents to do so either.
An owner of a seaside hotel said he saw customers playing on the beach despite the odd-coloured water.
Tourist Azmi Ghani, 47, said the sea water was much worse than when he visited just two weeks ago.
“This beach was beautiful two years ago, barely tolerable two weeks ago, and now it’s a mess,” said the businessman from Selangor.
“I won’t be coming back.”
Beserah assemblyman Andansura Rabu said a smaller scale incident happened in early September, when a four hours of heavy rain caused the waters near Kuantan Port to turn red.
“Where does this red come from? In the years before there was bauxite mining, the monsoon didn’t make the sea red,” he replied, when asked if it was fair to blame the phenomenon on bauxite mining.
Bauxite mining in Pahang has surged since 2014 following Indonesia’s ban on the ore exports and a weaker ringgit. Bauxite ore is refined into aluminium and it is very much in demand in China.
According to the Minerals and Geoscience Department, production in Malaysia increased more than four-fold to 962,799 tonnes in 2014 from the year before.
State public amenities and environment committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Soffi Abd Razak declined to comment until details were available.
The Star had previously highlighted the call by parties – both for and against bauxite mining – for a stop work of bauxite mining during the monsoon.
However, due to the continued dry weather well into December, bauxite mining has been continuing.
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