Monday, August 14, 2006

MP calls for probe into dredging

The Member of Parliament for Santubong, Datuk Wan Junaidi Tunaku Jaafar, has called for the relevant agencies to investigate the dredging operations at Santubong. This was front page news in Sunday’s edition of the Eastern Times under the headline “Probe illegal sand dredging call”.

The MP was quoted in the local daily as saying “I am concerned about such illegal activities because they affect the livelihood of the people, especially the fishermen in the area”. For some time now the local fishermen have been complaining about the sand barges and reduced fish catch. A number of press reports have highlighted the fishermen’s concerns.

According to the Eastern Times report, the villagers say the barges move in between 10 and 11 pm and work through the night. On a number of occasions whilst dolphin watching at Santubong I’ve seen the barges during the day. The photo in the previous post ‘Sand dredgers at Santubong’ was taken around 6.30 pm. On that day two barges were dredging for sand when we arrived in the area just after lunch.

I went out dolphin watching again on Sunday afternoon and there was one dredging barge in the Santubong estuary. It was not dredging for sand when we saw it. It was anchored with a second tug boat nearby. There was also a ‘pod’ of four dredging barges in the Santubong River itself, moored just past the junction where the Buntal River joins the Santubong River. Looks like the brazen barges could be breeding! Well maybe not, but it does appear that Santubong’s barge population is increasing with the pod size now ranging from 1-4 individuals. If the barge population continues to increase there could be more sand dredging barges than dolphins at Santubong!

Now that somewhat flippant last remark is not as stupid as it sounds. Both the fishermen and the dolphins fish in the same waters off Santubong. These two groups of Santubong residents have lived side by side for generations with enough fish for both the villagers and the dolphins. The arrival of the sand dredgers has impacted the livelihood of the fisher folk, that we do know. But we do not know what impact the dredging operations are having on the dolphins.

So it is good to hear that the Santubong MP has called for a probe into the dredging and is highlighting the concerns of his constituents. By helping the fishermen Datuk Wan Junaidi is helping the dolphins of Santubong.

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