July 2, 2008

State `Jewel’ Under Threat

By Sean Augustin

HULU TERENGGANU: The Sungai Berang riverine forest near Kampung Pengkalan Ajal here is under threat from sand dredging, which could damage its fragile eco-system and endanger wildlife.

The riverine forest is home to various flora and fauna such as wild orchids, terrapins, pig-tailed monkeys and kingfishers.

It is learnt that sand dredging had been carried out in at least five sites along Sungai Berang.

Malaysian Nature Society member Wan Nurzalia Wan Saelan told the New Straits Times that sand dredging in such a sensitive area would have negative long-term effects on the environment.

"When there is sand dredging near river estuaries, it reduces light penetration and increases water turbidity (muddy or with sediment). This affects aquatic life.

"It will also disturb the habitat of the various wildlife. It must be stopped," she said.

The NST checked one of the sites last Saturday and found that the activity was going on unchecked.

Ping Anchorage managing director Alex Lee, who runs a cruise along the river, claimed that ever since the sand dredging activity began, Sungai Berang had turned murky.

"The river is one of the jewels of Terengganu, and the rainforest is one of the oldest in the world. They should be left untouched," he said.

State Industrial, Trade and Environment Committee chairman Toh Chin Yaw said the state government had ordered a stop to all activities at Sungai Berang, adding that the Land and Minerals Department had been told to investigate the claim.

He said action must be taken as the area is a natural heritage site which must be preserved.

It is learnt that the sand dredging is to widen and deepen Sungai Berang, and to prevent flooding in the area.

Meanwhile, the Hulu Terengganu Land office said it did not receive orders to stop the sand dredging.

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