Penang Executive Councillor (Exco) Phee Boon Poh has come under fire for implying that the DAP-led state government was willing to destroy mangroves in Bagan Jermal area to make way for a reclamation project.
The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) president S.M. Mohamed Idris said CAP hoped that Phee was not gazing stars in the sky (development projects) whilst forgetting the grass on the ground (the environment and livelihood of the people).
He said mangrove forests in Bagan Jermal and elsewhere across Penang were valuable natural treasures in case Phee wanted to compare it with development projects proposed by the DAP government
“CAP is disappointed with the statement by Phee Boon Poh,” said Idris in a statement today.
CAP strongly objects reclamation projects in the state, and Idris urged the Penang government to cancel all development projects that involved mangrove forests and adversely impact the environment, lives and livelihood of the people.
“A large-scale mangrove replanting project had to be implemented in suitable areas to regenerate and conserve these natural treasures,” insisted Idris.
According to Phee, who is in charge of state welfare, caring society and environment portfolios, the felling of the 9.38 hectares of mangrove forest in Bagan Jermal was for the purpose of generating income for the state rather than leaving it idle without producing any revenue.
CAP has now demanded Phee to produce findings that the mangroves in the said area did not have any benefits for the environment and livelihood of the local fishers.
The value of Malaysian mangroves just for storm protection and flood control has been estimated at USD300,000 per km of coastline, which is based on the cost of replacing the mangroves with rock walls, according to a 2001 findings by Ramsar Convention Secretariat.
The convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
Ramsar secretariat offices, co-located with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ICUN) in Gland, Switzerland, provide supporting services to the convention and secretariat staff, who are legally considered to be employees of IUCN.
Mangrove trees also store large amounts of carbon and function as a carbon sink contribute to mitigating climate change.
Mangrove forests not only protect coastal areas from natural hazards such as storms, tidal waves and tsunami.
Mangroves are also a breeding ground for marine lives that are source of income for the fisher communities, their future generation and food supply for the people.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) Report 2006 stated that mangrove forests in Peninsular Malaysia supported a fishery industry worth US$250,000/km2/year.
Obviously Phee did not know this, and CAP is upset that a state Exco in charge of environment and welfare does not understand the holistic functions of mangroves and benefits to the environment and economy.
“Phee should check out what has happened to the environment, fish stock and livelihood of coastal fishers in Balik Pulau and Seberang Perai Selatan as a result of mangrove destruction in these areas,” said Idris.