Malaysia: Malacca reclamation - Weigh socio-economic gains against ecological losses, authorities urged

ARNAZ M. KHAIRUL New Straits Times 8 Dec 16;

MALACCA: The long-term effect of land reclamation could be felt by the masses as marine-based produce and services deplete, along with coastal livelihoods, eventually directly impacting the cost of living.

A marine scientist said it was likely that reclamation works had caused the rapid and intensified coastal erosion that hit Kampung Hailam beach in Tanjung Kling recently.

Malaysian Society of Marine Sciences president Dr Harinder Rai Singh called on state and federal governments to weigh the socio-economic gains against the ecological losses.

He said ecologically sensitive areas such as the coast of Malacca had high biodiversity value.

“Coastal reclamation can affect coastal currents and wave fronts, which can affect sediment transport and sedimentation in coastal habitats such as mangroves, mudflats, corals, sandy beaches and seagrass beds.”

He was commenting on a New Straits Times special report on the proposed reclamation of a man-made island to be turned into the Kuala Linggi International Port (KLIP) project and the already rapid reclamation of Malacca’s southern coastline, which had raised public concern.

“Reclamation can cause coastal erosion and may also reduce current and wave energy, resulting in accretion of sediment. This may happen in the vicinity of the project or some distance away. The erosion in Kampung Hailam has probably been happening over the years, either due to natural causes or accelerated due to human intervention in the marine and coastal environment.”

Harinder said the question of how necessary reclamation was, compared with its adverse effects on ecology, remained one that divided public opinion.

“That is a socio-economic issue for the state and the federal governments to decide. Ecologically, reclamation is a disturbance, where changes to coastal and marine habitats are acute, and such changes can be drastic.

“One example is loss in feeding, nursery, breeding and spawning grounds for coastal organisms. For example, soil or sand dumping for reclamation smothers and kills sessile invertebrates that are the diet of demersal fish (bottom feeders).

“Mangroves, coral, seagrass, mudflat and shallow coastal water habitat loss is translated into loss of goods and services, which ultimately affects coastal livelihoods,” said Harinder, who is attached to the Faculty of Applied Sciences at Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Shah Alam campus.

Environmental governance at risk
EDITORIAL New Straits Times 8 Dec 16;

THE environmental impact assessment (EIA), whose ideas go back to the United Nations Declaration on the Human Environment at the Stockholm Conference in 1972, is critical in ensuring sustainable development.

More than 170 countries declared their commitment to strike a balance between environmental concerns and economic needs at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and the EIA was recognised as one of the tools to achieve this.

Malaysia is one of the earliest countries that embraced the EIA concept. Following in the footsteps of various developed countries, Malaysia adapted the EIA practice into local legal regimes in 1974.

The impending construction of the RM12.5 billion Kuala Linggi International Port in the first quarter of next year clearly shows the lack of respect the developers in question have for the EIA process.

They have blatantly ignored the objections of a team of experts, which has declared the port project an environmental hazard.

The team, which had produced a Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) report on the proposed airport, was adamant that the Department of Environment did not approve the project.

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

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

The consensus was the choice of site was inappropriate as it would disrupt the flow of water from the river, marine life and livelihood of the people.

The start of the project, as announced by owners TAG Marine Sdn Bhd on Nov 28, came as a shock to those involved in the DEIA report. The proposed port would be an expansion of the Kuala Linggi port, which opened in 2001.

Another valid complaint is the excessive land reclamation exercise along Malacca’s 70km-long coastline.

Along the coast of Malacca, once popular stretches of beaches in Klebang have disappeared, jeopardising the future of fishermen. Land reclamation has presented many countries with available land to develop, without the need to demolish existing infrastructure or relocate people from their homes.

But taking land from the sea also raises huge problems such as the decimation of entire coastal areas, wiping out their native fish and aquatic plant populations as a result of the changes that land reclamation can trigger.

Experts talk about serious dangers such as irreversible environmental damage, coastal erosion, subsidence, damage to fishery resources and, most of all, those sites are usually vulnerable to sea level rise.

As Malacca is economically dependent on tourism, it is vital to keep its environment and aquatic life as pristine as possible.

Is Malaysia’s environmental governance going through a crisis? If people chose not to see it before, they should now, following this latest episode.

Ignoring EIA reports is the first step towards killing the EIA process in Malaysia. It is abundantly clear that the priority of these particular developers is not the protection of the environment.

The “anti-environment” stance of such developers will lead to a huge crisis in environmental governance in Malaysia.

We will see the impact of their foolishness in the form of irreparable damage to ecology and an immense economic burden on the people of Malaysia.

Malacca govt to help secure approvals for RM12.5b KLIP project
ARNAZ M. KHAIRUL AND ARFA YUNUS New Straits Times 8 Dec 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: THE RM12.5 billion Kuala Linggi International Port (KLIP) project by TAG Marine Sdn Bhd cannot commence until the company has obtained all the necessary approvals.

Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron, however, said the state government would help the company in getting the approvals.

“The state government will always lend a hand should any requirement be beyond the capacity of the developers.

“We will manage the mechanisms needed... the developers will have to sit down and discuss comprehensively with the authorities on how to find either a new location, new coordinates or on how best we can solve the problems to meet the requirements,” he told the New Straits Times.

Idris said this was to ensure that there would be no negative impact arising from the project.

Asked whether there were plans to move the project site, he said the location of KLIP would have to be near the area, as it was the perfect natural harbour.

“It’s the best area with the depth and maritime requirements (for a port). The area is one of a kind, with a natural harbour. Ship captains and owners have said that the area is the best place for ships to dock.”

TAG Marine managing director Datuk Noormustafa Kamal Yahya had last month announced that the project would commence next year, with the bulk of the funding coming from Chinese investors. The project is an expansion of the Kuala Linggi Port, which opened in 2001.

Yesterday, the NST published an exclusive report stating that environmentalists were puzzled as to how TAG Marine could have announced the project when the team that analysed the company’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) report had rejected it.

The team’s report said the location was unsuitable as it would disrupt the flow of water from Sungai Linggi; and because the project was at the mouth of the river, it would endanger marine life and fishermen’s livelihood.

Water quality and modelling specialist Dr Zaki Zainuddin, who led the team that rejected the project’s EIA, had told the NST the proposed location of KLIP was unsuitable as it could cause adverse shifts in hydrodynamics, which could potentially result in flooding inland.

In Malacca, Idris said the development of the state’s coast would move towards the industrialisation of its maritime services through new ports.

He said traditional agro-based professions might soon come to an end.

“I read about the grouses and I want to reply that you cannot forever remain as fishermen or traditional farmers because life requires you to go through different experiences. Now is the age to build ports.

“So, if you are still catching fish, then I fear there are other sentiments behind it. Reclamation began 44 years ago, so why are you complaining about it now?”

Idris, who was speaking after chairing the state executive council meeting, was responding to questions on the KLIP project and what had been called excessive reclamation works on Malacca’s coast.

He told the public to look to the future as the sprawling developments planned along the Malacca coast would attract opportunities.

He recalled a meeting with a farmer-turned-landlord in China recently, saying: “I was in Shenzhen, China, and I was told by this stylish landlord that 18 years ago he was just a small farmer earning a tough living. Today, he is the landlord of several expensive properties.

“I asked him what he does and he said he doesn’t farm anymore. Now, he helps ship owners clean their vessels docked at a port and monitors the rental collection for his properties in Shenzhen.

“Reclamation has been taking place in Malacca since 1972 for 44 years. Those in the Portuguese settlement have been catching fish for as long. You must remember that we were once rubber tappers, traditional fishermen and farmers.

“All those who lived by the coast were fishermen. But they do not remain fishermen forever.”

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