Malaysia, Malacca: Faced with rapid erosion, residents want to see master plan of reclamation project

New Straits Times 7 Dec 16;

MALACCA: Is Malacca’s future, particularly that along its storied coastline, one that is bereft of its traditional ways, a sprawling metropolis inhabited by foreigners buying into foreign investments?

This is the multi-billion ringgit question asked by many as the face of the 70km-long coastline transforms through massive reclamation works.

“What we would all like to see is a master plan on what these reclamation projects are going to project,” said Lim Heng Tin, a 66-year-old whose childhood memories of growing up on Kampung Hailam’s lush beach have been wiped away by rapid erosion in the past two months.

From where the fallen Malacca Club Rotunda’s guardpost lies in shambles, having been blown to pieces during high tide on Friday morning, with the beach that once protected it well eroded, Kampung Hailam folk need to just look out to sea to find the alleged reason for the damage.

From Klebang, to the west of the Kampung Hailam cape, beyond what was once the turtle hatching haven of Pulau Upeh, dredging is visible, as landfills push on further into deeper sea.

So far, there are plans available for the RM8 billion Melaka Gateway port, which is an extension of Pulau Melaka up to Pulau Upeh, along with commercial and residential developments within its project.

Another mammoth project — the RM12.5 billion Kuala Linggi International Port (KLIP), is being questioned by experts who said the project has not been approved by the Department of Environment.

On Nov 6, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released to the New Straits Times damning statistics of the dwindling number of recorded landings of the critically endangered Hawksbill turtles along the Malacca coastline.

Residents, too, have highlighted the lack of turtle landings, which, in past years, have been sighted along the coast from Klebang, with Pulau Upeh, now close to no longer being an island, recording among the highest landings.

The Malacca government, possibly alerted to the damage being done to turtle habitats, on Nov 7 announced through Tanjung Bidara assemblyman Datuk Md Rawi Mahmud the designation of an 800m stretch of beach along Padang Kamunting to Air Hitam Darat as a turtle sanctuary, to be left untouched and devoid of human activities to allow turtles to lay eggs.

Along the coast, there are stories such as how restaurant owner Bertrand Pau and residents in a neighbouring condominium block were locked in a legal and lengthy debate with the state government as the dredging began to reclaim land in front of what was once sea-fronting properties.

The result? Reclamation commenced to the left and right of their properties, eventually leaving an eyesore of a pool of stagnant seawater fronting their property.

“We must know what we want. But what is happening here, nobody knows. They just seem to reclaim and reclaim with no end,” said Pau.

“Tourism is Malacca’s bread and butter. Tourists come for our tradition, heritage and beaches. But what is left of those now? This is what everybody should ask.”

Excessive land reclamation means smaller catch for Malacca fishermen
New Straits Times 7 Dec 16;

MALACCA: As a lean and fit-looking 40-year-old Edgar Rodrigues stands to greet visitors at the lobby of a four-star hotel, one might guess his build could be the result of lifting countless kilogrammes of guests’ luggage at his workplace.

But that is far from the truth. A turn of fate had caused this well-spoken traditionalist from the Portuguese Settlement to make the most difficult shift in his life just a year ago, from a fisherman to hotel bellhop.

“I couldn’t support my family with my income. What used to be catches worth between RM150 and RM200 in a four-hour shift are now gone.

“These days, we drift the butterfly net for four hours and we’re considered lucky if we have RM30 worth in catch,” said Rodrigues.

He had to give up life as a coastal fisherman, earning his living from drifting butterfly nets to catch geragau prawns (acetes, a genus of small krill-like prawns) used in the production of the popular local condiment cincaluk.

As a landfill developed to extend what was Pulau Melaka, a man-made island that came into existence more than 30 years ago, in came what Rodrigues describes as “dead mud”, one that is toxic and inhabitable for the prawns.

And it is not just Rodrigues who is feeling the pinch.

From more than 100 people with butterfly nets painting a picturesque view in the muddy waters off the Portuguese Settlement, 49-year-old Hilary d’Costa is now among the 10-odd people who still cast their nets in the hopes of earning a living.

Only a handful of acetes is his take from three hours of labour on the day the New Straits Times caught up with him, and d’Costa duly threw them back into the sea, hoping that they would spawn.
“Only geragau is available here these days. Other species of fish have depleted. Those days, in June when it is the geragau season, I can easily catch up to 40kg within three hours. Now, I catch so few that they can’t even be used to cook a proper dish,” he said.

Those in the Portuguese Settlement have had several brushes with the authorities over the years, in battles for their plot to not be taken away by reclamation.

Chef and traditional Portuguese cuisine campaigner Benildus da Silva, 42, believes the compensation paid by the state government should be in the form of increased educational and commercial opportunities.

“Our livelihoods, the traditional ways, they are gone. We came from the sea, so we would want to live by the sea. But that can’t be the case anymore. We are a small (community of) people, just about 2,000 of us living here. We can’t fight the authorities and large corporations.

“Some of us in the Portuguese Settlement had been compensated with a nominal sum for the loss of livelihood, but many who agreed did not see the bigger picture. We are losing something that has been a part of us, which we can’t get back.

“What they should have asked for was compensation in the form of opportunities. If the land was to be reclaimed, we should be given commercial lots to do business and our children given opportunities in education, so they can find other jobs, instead of the traditional ones.”

It isn’t just those in the Portuguese Settlement who are affected.

Along the coast in Klebang and Tanjung Kling, fishermen are facing similar plights due to declining marine life caused by what they claimed was excessive reclamation.

The days of the coastal fishermen, said Rodrigues, were gone, with conditions fit only for larger industrial-sized trawlers who ply their trade in deeper waters.

“There is no place for the traditional fisherman on the coast. It is all gone. We have to move on, but it is sad that Malacca has lost this part of our heritage,” he said, an air of defeat about him.

Experts puzzled over Kuala Linggi International Port's construction
ARNAZ M. KHAIRUL AND KELLY KOH New Straits Times 7 Dec 16;

MALACCA: Just how the RM12.5 billion Kuala Linggi International Port (KLIP) has been given the go-ahead to begin construction in the first quarter of next year has left experts, who deemed the project an environmental hazard, puzzled.

Experts reviewing the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) report on the proposed KLIP insist the Department of Environment (DoE) had rejected the report, based on its location.

Former International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) Department of Engineering Associate Professor Dr Zaki Zainudin, who was in the team that review the report, confirmed that the team had agreed upon a consensus against the project.

The DEIA report was prepared by the proponent’s consultants.

“The main issue was the location. The port would be built on reclaimed land, which would form an island right at the river mouth of Sungai Linggi.

“The biggest concern is that this may disrupt the hydrodynamics and cause floods, which would affect towns and people upstream.

“We came to a consensus that the location was not suitable as it would disrupt the flow of water from the river, marine life and the livelihood of the people.

“Thus, I was shocked to see press reports that the project would start in the first quarter of next year, when our team (which review the DEIA report) had advised the DoE against it,” he told the New Straits Times.

The commencement of the project, announced by owners TAG Marine Sdn Bhd on Nov 28, with its managing director, Datuk Wira Noormustafa Kamal Yahya, also announcing the bulk of the funding would be from Chinese investors, will be an expansion of the Kuala Linggi Port, which opened in 2001.

The Kuala Linggi Port serves mainly the oil and gas industry, while the expansion would be to provide larger scale servicing facilities aimed at the more than 100,000 vessels transporting US$60 billion (RM266.5 billion) worth of trade through the Straits of Malacca annually.

Noormustafa had said the project would provide 6,000 new jobs.

This, however, raised further question marks and public outcry over the excessive land reclamation along Malacca’s 70km-long coastline, with another project amassing land past Pulau Upeh, about 20km south of Kuala Linggi, allegedly causing dangerous levels of erosion at the coast along Tanjung Kling.

Along the coast of Malacca, public outcry is increasing as the once popular stretches of beaches in Klebang have disappeared, while the livelihoods of fishermen continue to be affected.

Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron, when contacted by the NST, ticked off the developers, stating that the project would only be allowed to continue when all standards were adhered to.

“Launching it is not a sign that work can commence.

“They can launch it a thousand times, but if the required documentation and standards are not met, the project will not be allowed to continue.” he said.

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