SEBERANG PERAI, Oct 12 — Bukit Tengah assemblyman Gooi Hsiao Leung suggested for the state government to gazette the mangrove forests along the Juru coastline to protect these from destruction.
After visiting the site today, he said he confirmed that about an acre of the mangroves illegally cleared along the road near Sungai Belanak in Juru.
“I immediately visited the area with various government agencies after it was highlighted in the press yesterday that a large area of mangrove forest here was illegally cleared,” he said.
He said mangroves were vital to the marine eco system as it helps control sea levels and reduce flooding risks, adding that the destruction of the mangrove forest is a serious crime.
Gooi said he has asked the district office to report the matter to the police, saying those responsible must be punished under the National Forestry Act 1984.
“Those responsible for this criminal action can also be charged under Section 425 under the National Land Code 1965 for trespassing onto government land and upon conviction, can be sentenced to a maximum sentence is RM500,000 or five years imprisonment,” he said.
Gooi also told the district office to install notices warning against trespassing and to increase their monitoring of the area.
Yesterday, Sahabat Alam Malaysia president SM Mohamed Idris highlighted the clearing of the mangrove forest and urged agencies such as the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP), Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID), the Forestry Department and the District Office to inspect the area.
“We met some people who lived in that area and they didn’t know who was behind the clearing works but it was suspected that those clearing the land were planning to start an aquaculture farm there,” he claimed.
“According to our research, more than half of Penang’s mangrove swamps were reclaimed from before 1990,” he said when urging authorities to determine if laws have been broken.
He added that a research in the 1950s revealed that Penang has around 3,500ha of mangrove swamp lands, most of which were used for agriculture, manufacturing and housing.
“Now, we are facing the challenge of these mangrove forests being converted to aquaculture uses,” he said.
He said the whole of Penang including the mainland now has less than 400ha of mangrove swamps remaining.
He pointed out that mangrove swamps play an important role in the eco-system and is a natural buffer against disasters like tsunami, as is evidenced by the tsunami in 2004, and urged authorities to act swiftly to preserve these.