SAM: We depend on mangroves for food and protect our coastline

GEORGE TOWN: All states, including Penang, should play a role in ensuring that the remaining mangrove forests are protected, a leading environmental group said.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) said no development should be allowed in mangrove areas as they were important for protection of the coastal areas and as breeding ground for marine life.

“In Penang’s case, it is our hope that the state government gazette all the mangrove forests in the state as permanent reserved forest for protection purposes and not as productive forest.

“We will be damned when the mangroves are gone as we depend on them for our source of food and to protect our lives,” SAM president S.M. Mohamed Idris told the New Straits Times.

Idris said non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations, communities and government agencies had embarked on rehabilitating degraded mangroves by planting saplings.

He said there were other government agencies which approved plans to convert the mangroves for other purposes.

“For example, this happened in Bagan Jermal for coastal reclamation and Balik Pulau for aquaculture.

“On one hand, there are measures to conserve mangrove forests, but on the other hand, mangroves are being cleared for development,” he said.

Idris said ignorance on the importance of mangroves and human greed were some of the causes of mangrove destruction.

“Some politicians do not care about the fisheries sector or the function of mangrove role as the first defence of the coastline... what matters is profit to be gained from the area,” he said.

Idris said it was upsetting that the mangrove forests in the state continued to be cleared although there had been many protests, especially by the fishing community whose livelihood was threatened by development projects.

“Recently, 9.38ha of mangrove area in Bagan Jermal has been reportedly destroyed to make way for a reclamation project.

“This shows that the state government is not serious in protecting the environment and lives of the people, particularly the fishing community,” he said.

Idris said past surveys revealed that hundreds of hectares of mangroves had been destroyed for the purpose of development and aquaculture projects, which threatened the source of income of thousands of fishermen in the state.

“We hope that the project developer will take immediate action to replant the mangrove trees that have been felled to enable rejuvenation of the area for the sake of fishermen, future generation and the environment.