Pahang residents see red as blue waters vanish

Mohd Suhaimi Arman Zulkifli, 11, dips his hands into Sungai Balok to look for shells yesterday, oblivious to the possibilities of danger from bauxite contamination. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Mohd Suhaimi Arman Zulkifli, 11, dips his hands into Sungai Balok to look for shells yesterday, oblivious to the possibilities of danger from bauxite contamination. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUANTAN, Dec 31 — Residents are in a daze over bauxite contamination that turned the sea here a shocking red on Tuesday.

Teacher Peh Chuen Keong, who has been living here for the last 20 years, is reeling from the shock of seeing the beach at nearby Pantai Batu Hitam a sickly brown yesterday.

He was also upset that students like his young son who accompanied him to the beach could not swim in what had previously been placid blue waters.  

“What a terrible thing to happen. I thought I could come here with my son and swim in the water but now we can’t. It was a sad and scary thing to see,” said the 35-year-old who had brought his family to the beach.

He said although the sea off the village had been becoming murkier over the past few months, he never thought that it would deteriorate to such an  extent.

“The water has been turning murky over the past few months but I was still able to swim in it. But I have never seen the water this bad. This beach is a popular spot for local tourists but now I dont know if anyone will ever come here,” he said.

Peh hoped the authorities will act to ensure that no further pollution of the sea by bauxite will take place in future.

Another teacher, who only wished to be called Sue, came to swim knowing bauxite pollution had caused a problen but was shaken by the extent of the problem.

“Online news portals ran stories on the issue but I came anyway as I wanted my children to play in the water. I decided against letting them into the water after seeing the terrible condition it was in. So we just had a picnic,” she said.

Sue, 30, feels she will no longer come to Pantai Batu Hitam during the school holidays as she did not want her children to face health problems.

“It is sad to see the sea in this condition. I am sad the area is empty when it used to be full of visitors in the past,” she said.

Sue hoped the authorities would prevent a recurrence of the problem by regulating the bauxite mining industry.