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Avoid mangroves when building roads: Coalition
Published on: Tuesday, July 28, 2020
By: The Star
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Kota Kinabalu: Coalition Humans Habitats Highways (3H), a joint platform of civil society and scientific research organisations strongly recommended avoiding mangroves when building road.

Stressing that it is possible for Sabah, globally known for successful conservation efforts to have both infrastructure development and mangroves, the coalition said construction should be realigned to inland areas. 

“This will avoid further mangrove fragmentation and degradation from noise, construction waste pollution and, importantly, hydrological disturbances, it said in statement, Monday.

The coalition said land filling to build roads across mangrove swamps and river channels disturbs both surface and underground hydrology, as the free exchanges between sea tide and freshwater rivers are natural processes crucial for mangroves’ vitality.

WWF Malaysia’s Head of Conservation Dr Robecca Jumin said the coalition’s suggestion to realign road building inland was based on factors such as the high cost of elevating and constructing roads on soft mangrove soil. 

“There are also the threats from sea level rise due to climate change, which may see the roads eventually being inundated.

“Hydrology disturbance from building roads in mangroves will drastically reduce the livelihoods of fishermen and Sabah’s overall food security as the ecosystem is a key seafood nursery. 

“Subsequent human settlements on roadsides will further deplete and degrade remaining mangroves,” she said.

The coalition viewed positively Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal’s statement last year that the Pan-Borneo Highway must not be at the expense of forests and that construction should only involve expanding existing roads rather than new alignments that would affect forested ecosystems.

Forever Sabah Chief Executive Facilitator, Cynthia Ong, said road building is generally appreciated and needed by society to facilitate movement and economic growth.

“However, road building should be carefully done by also considering cultural and environmental elements. Plenty of scientific data is readily available to inform which places should be avoided, and the reasons behind such suggestions.

“Some roads are planned and built to improve livelihoods through eco-tourism products, such as boating safaris for viewing wildlife including proboscis monkey and fireflies. What would there be for tourists to see and experience if the mangroves are damaged?” she asked.

The coalition said the current alignment of the new two-lane coastal road from Tuaran to Simpang Mengayau in Kudat will cross several Class V Mangrove Forest Reserves and the Kota Belud Bird Sanctuary. 

“These are important eco-tourism and fisheries assets for the northwest coast region of Sabah that must not be destroyed. Moreover, the current alignment may also burden the State with increased (but avoidable) road maintenance and flood mitigation costs due to potential sea level rise.”

Coalition 3H comprises the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), Borneo Futures, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), Forever Sabah, Seratu Aatai, Land Empowerment Animals People (Leap), Pacos Trust and WWF-Malaysia.



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