Malaysia: When mining starts, wildlife disappears

Posted on July 17, 2010. Filed under: Ecology |

-NST- Take care of nature and she will take care of you, goes the adage which rings true especially when it comes to eco-tourism, write SEAN AUGUSTIN and EVANGELINE MAJAWAT.

A WIN-WIN situation for the environment and the economy can be found in eco-tourism.

Which is why industry players are urging parties to be careful when developing areas close to such sites, as in the case of sand mining on the periphery of the Paya Indah Wetlands.

Sand mining is currently being carried out on a 33ha plot of land and what worries environmentalist is that it is just 20m from the southern boundary of the wetlands.

Ping Anchorage managing director, Alex Lee, said he had experienced first-hand revenue loss when sand mining was conducted along Sungai Berang, Terengganu, a rainforest river in 2008.

Lee, a tour operator, who ran a river cruise at the site, said wildlife “disappeared” when works began, adding that the boatmen, most of whom were villagers, suffered when the number of tourists dwindled.

“I am not against development, but such plans must be located far away from tourism products. We must not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

“Once such places are destroyed, it could take more than two decades to rehabilitate,” he said, adding that eco-tourism provided far more jobs in the long run compared with activities like sand mining.

Kalao Voyages Sdn Bhd managing director, Ooi Chin Hock, another tour operator, said that rehabilitating a sand mine costs three times more than mining itself

“It does not make economic sense and it can harm the environment. With eco-tourism, the value can only go up.”

He added that eco-tourism provided more than monetary gains, including a cultural exchange, as some sites were located deep in the interiors.

A United Nations Environment Programme’s report in 2005 “Investing in Environmental Wealth for Poverty Reduction” found investments in the environment alleviates poverty and was more economical in the long run.

The report revealed that conservation is also more cost-effective when compared with short-term profits from environmentally-damaging activities, such as mining and dynamite fishing.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Research Centre for Tropical Climate Change System head Professor Dr Fredolin Tangang said it was not only about the dollars and sen.

“The various ecosystems provide services to mankind. When the services are disrupted, it would directly affect us,” he said.

For example, he added, the fisheries industry would collapse if the marine and wetland ecosystems were destroyed.

“In the long run, it would benefit us more — economically, socially and health-wise — to preserve the environment.”

Fredolin’s colleague from the Institute for Environment and Development Associate Professor Dr Ahmad Fariz said sustainable development was the way forward.

“It’s all about balancing the environment and development,” he said.

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