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Logging mangroves on the sly

 | July 25, 2011

A group of fishermen concerned over the logging of 50-year-old mangrove trees in a gazetted forest reserve want the authorities to investigate the matter.

TAWAU: Mature mangrove trees from a forest reserve near here are being surreptiously logged by a timber company, according to local fishermen in the area.

According to the fishermen, workers from Syarikat Garingan were allegedly cutting down 50-year-old mangrove trees at different spots as if to avoid their activities being detected.

The fishermen said they first noticed something suspicious when they saw trawlers entering the Sungai Kalumpang six months ago.

But it was only two months ago that they suspected thieving after they saw more than 20 boats cut mangroves along the river to the landing area.

“We have complained to the authorities. A few times while fishing we saw army helicopters hovering and other department officers we think also came to inspect the area, but no actions were taken.

“There is also a post there, we think it is the General Operation Force (GOF) post.

“We can hear the chainsaws from a far distant, while we were fishing, and at one time we were even chased away by these loggers. We think they are illegal immigrants,” one fishermen who added that Sungai Kalumpang used to be rich with fish but not anymore because of the use of illegal netting by the loggers.

Frustrated with the authority’s lack of action, the fishermen recently approached DAP and conveyed their fears.

Legal logging?

According to the party’s Tawau branch complaints bureau assistant Fung Thin Yein, the area was a favourite fishing ground for local fishermen and anglers.

He said there are many signboards at intervals along the river that showed the mangroves were part of a forest reserve.

“But there was also a sign board along the river that showed a company had obtained a license to cut down the mangroves.

“They even have a collection area where a lorry will come to collect the felled mangroves.

“The relevant authorities should investigate this matter.

“The area is only about 5-minutes boat ride from the river mouth,” he said.

Fung said he was also informed that illegal squatters are sprouting up near the river mouth.

He was told that about two years ago there was only one stilt house, but now there are more than 10 and mangrove logs are used to erect the houses.

Fung said the fishermen had also complained about the quality of the river water.

“They said the water had become black and smelly and they blamed it on the effluents escaping a palm oil mill further up stream,” said Fung adding that he was told that even the crocodiles often spotted basking in the sun was no more to be seen.

Luckily the Proboscis monkeys are still there, he said.

It is understood that there is rampant destruction of mangrove areas along the whole coastline of this district happening right under the noses of the state authorities.

Is someone being paid-off?

The Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa) which has been highlighting the destruction of vast stands of mangrove forests in the area for years is also fed-up.

Sepa president, Wong Tack, said the state government appeared to have turned a blind eye to the practice.

“These are areas that are very important for marine life as they are the breeding ground for diverse species and what the east coast is well know for.

“The authorities should put a stop to the degradation of the rich biodiversity there. This is a disgrace.

“Tawau is well-known for its seafood and here there are greedy people destroying it and the state authorities are doing nothing.

“What is the reason for this? Is someone being paid-off?” he asked.

Another environmental activist said the Forestry Department is aware of what is taking place but had said they were waiting for orders from senior officers in the state capital.

“One of the officers here told me to talk to the higher ups. Who are the higher ups? Is it the director, the chief minister, who?” he asked.


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