Mangrove forest in Juru illegally cleared, confirms assemblyman

Shamsul Munir Safini

JURU: The indiscriminate clearing of the last remaining mangrove forest here, believed to be for the development of aquaculture ponds, is being carried out illegally without approval from Seberang Prai Tengah Land and Mineral office.

PKR’s Bukit Tengah asssemblyman, Gooi Hsiao Leung, who visited the site this morning after being alerted by the NSTP yesterday, said irresponsible quarters had encroached into the site.

He said initial investigation showed the clearing works were undertaken by unknown individuals and that he had directed the Land Office to lodge a police report on the matter.

“It is still a serious crime although the encroachment is only on a small area.

“We all know the importance of the mangrove forest to the marine ecosystem,” he said.

Gooi said those responsible could be charged under Section 425 of the National Land Code 1965 for encroachment into government land.

“They are liable to a maximum RM500,000 fine or five years jail upon conviction.

“They can also be charged with encroaching into mangrove forest under the National Forestry Act,” he added.

Gooi said he would file a formal request with the Penang government to gazette the mangrove forests as a forest reserve.

Yesterday, the NSTP reported that a swathe of the last remaining mangrove forest here had been indiscriminately cleared, believed to be for the development of aquaculture ponds.

Machineries were spotted at the site recently to clear the 0.9ha mangrove forest and level the muddy soil.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president S.M. Mohamed Idris had urged the Penang government, the Seberang Prai Municipal Council, the Drainage and Irrigation Department, state Forestry Department and the Seberang Prai Tengah Land and District Office to investigate the destruction of mangrove forest in the area.

“In a survey along the bund road in Juru, Bukit Tengah recently, we were shocked to see machinery used to clear the mangrove forest and the muddy soil being leveled while being observed by several individuals there.

“We also spoke to a number of people passing by the bund road, who stated that they did not know the nature of the project to be implemented. Some said it is likely for development of aquaculture ponds.

“We are surprised that the small area of remaining mangrove forests in this area has been cleared indiscriminately,” he had said.

Based on information and previous studies, SAM found that more than half of the mangrove forests in the state were converted before 1990.

According to one study, in the 1950s, Penang was covered with about 3,500ha of mangrove forests.

Currently, the remaining area of mangrove forests in Penang island and Seberang Prai is not more than 400ha. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd