Johor failed to protect mangroves, Putrajaya must step in, says group

The Sungai Pulai mangrove reserve in Gelang Patah, Johor.

PETALING JAYA: Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has urged Putrajaya to use its powers to stop the destruction of mangrove sites in Johor, saying the state government has failed to preserve environmental heritage as seen in two recent cases including the loss of an internationally recognised mangrove site in Sungai Pulai.

“It is now obvious that the Johor state government is unable or unwilling to protect the sites. Even if the decisions to develop were made when Barisan Nasional ruled, why has the Pakatan Harapan Johor state government kept silent about it?” asked LFL’s N Surendran.

Last week, FMT reported that a golf course and hotel project could have taken up a part of the Sungai Pulai mangrove reserve, a famous riverine mangrove system in Gelang Patah.

Environmentalists said the project which opened its doors to the public late last year and reportedly cost RM2 billion had also encroached on an area listed by Ramsar, a global convention on the protection of wetlands.

The expose comes just two months after the controversy over Pulau Kukup, another Ramsar-listed site off the coast of Pontian, whose status as a national park was reportedly revoked in October last year.

This was followed by the Sultan of Johor declaring Pulau Kukup a national park despite remaining sultanate land, in a move which was also questioned by LFL.

Surendran said the Johor government must explain how a permanent forest reserve could have been “silently destroyed” for development purposes.

“There can be no excuse for interfering with a world-class mangrove site in order to put up a golf course,” he said.

“As this involves national heritage, there must now be a comprehensive investigation into how this happened, who was involved and who benefited.”

He said Putrajaya must table a white paper on the state of mangrove reserves nationwide.

A source earlier told FMT that maps of Sungai Pulai showed that part of its land had been de-gazetted to make way for the development of the project.

A comparison of Sungai Pulai on the Johor National Parks website and on Google Earth, which was last updated on Oct 2, 2018, shows that the golf course and hotel are located within the Ramsar site.

The developer of the golf resort has yet to respond to queries from FMT.