August 25, 2008

More Sand Dredging Sites Despite Pleas

By Sean Augustin

HULU TERENGGANU: Falling on deaf ears. This can best describe the pleas by several quarters to halt sand dredging activities along Sungai Berang, which are damaging the ecosystem and endangering wildlife.

When the New Straits Times first carried a report last month, there were at least five sites that were being dredged for sand.

A check with the Hulu Terengganu land office yesterday revealed that the number of sites had increased to seven. It is also learnt that nine more companies have applied to dredge in the area.

In the report dated July 2, it was stated that Sungai Berang and its surrounding forests near Kampung Pengkalan Ajal here were home to various flora and fauna such as wild orchids, terrapins, pig- tailed monkeys and kingfisher birds.

The NST quoted Malaysian Nature Society member Wan Nurzalia Wan Saelan as stating that sand dredging in such a sensitive area would have negative effects such as the increase in water turbidity.

Even state Industrial, Trade and Environment Committee chairman Toh Chin Yaw said then that the river was a natural heritage site which must be preserved, and the state government had ordered a stop to all dredging activities.

The Hulu Terengganu land office, however, denied receiving such an order.

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

When contacted yesterday, Lee said he received a lot of complaints about the river being polluted and it was becoming harder to spot wildlife.

"We promoted this place as a rainforest river with many wild animals. It is disappointing that this had to happen.

"We have no choice but to move the cruise to the Lata Berkoh river in Pahang, which is another rainforest with a river."

Toh, meanwhile, said he would direct the Hulu Terengganu land office to come up with a mechanism and move the existing sand dredging activities to another site.

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