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Sand dredging destruction in Borneo

24/06/2010 09:22:52 Barges appear to have valid authorisation

June 2010: Sand dredging is once again rampant along Borneo's Kinabatangan River following numerous sightings of barges transporting vast amounts of sand for the past two weeks straight.


‘We have stopped and boarded some of the barges but all seem to have valid authorisation letters from the Environmental Protection Department,' said Azri Sawang head of the Honorary Wildlife Warden team from the Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Project (KOCP).

According to Azri the local community was confused as to why such environmentally damaging activities such as sand dredging would be allowed here by one Government Department when other Departments are working so hard to protect the Kinabatangan.

At least three barges are seen each day - all with permits valid for a year

‘It is very confusing for us. On one hand we hear time and time again the Government is commitment to protecting this area, then we find another Department issues such letters that allow this type of destruction. As for us, we want to protect the Kinabatangan, so it weighs very heavy on me,' said Azri.

What is even more worrying is that at least three barges are seen daily and all of them seem to have permits valid for a full year.

‘At this rate the Kinabatangan will be damaged permanently,' said Azri.

A number of tourists have also voiced their concern by asking locals of Kampung Sukau why sand dredging is taking place within a protected area.

‘I came to see the orang-utans and Borneo Pygmy elephants of the Kinabatangan and its wonders, but I am shocked with all this sand dredging. Why is this being allowed here within this environmentally sensitive area? I am not sure I would recommend others to visit this place now,' said Sophia Bay, an American tourist.

‘The villagers who operate homestays and bed & breakfast have also asked us to investigate these barges following complaints from guests but since they have proper permits neither we nor the Sabah Wildlife Department is able to act,' explained Azri.

‘We understand sometimes laws overlap but parts of the Kinabatangan is a Wildlife Sanctuary and sand dredging is damaging to the environment, local community and wildlife,' stated Azri

The State Government has highlighted the importance of protecting the Kinabatangan over the years with the most recent calls made by the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment to the palm oil industry to donate land along riverbanks of the Kinabatangan for conservation.

"The suggestion of creating a 500m riverine buffer in wildlife-rich areas is a good idea," the Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun had stated last Friday at the conclusion of a two day Species Action Plan Workshop at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria.


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