29 June 2021, Semporna: WWF-Malaysia would like to emphasise the utmost importance in transparency throughout the process of approving development projects.
Referring to the Mabul incident on June 25 whereby a barge laden with construction materials flattened the corals off world famous Paradise 1 diving site, the conservation organisation also urged Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be carried out.
It is to ensure a proper mitigation plan is in place and to avoid destruction due to negligence in sensitive areas.
An EIA also allows and promotes consultation from stakeholders, such as local communities and governmental departments. This will ensure a holistic approach in delivering development projects.
WWF-Malaysia urges for thorough investigation to ensure accountability to the contractor Hartamas Borneo Sdn Bhd in this deeply unfortunate event.
“WWF-Malaysia also supports relevant government agencies and the District Officer of Semporna in taking the steps to avoid such devastating cases from happening again in our nation’s paradises.”
Mabul is a paradise rich with biodiversity
Mabul Island is undeniably an important place for the world’s biodiversity, for it is part of the Coral Triangle Region – a marine region that spans those parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.
The place with abundant biodiversity contains at least 500 species of reef-building corals, of which 76% (605) of the world’s coral species (798) are found in the Coral Triangle, the highest coral diversity in the world.
Many people, especially the coastal communities rely on coral reef ecosystems for their food and livelihood through fisheries.
Its beauty is not only the pride of the local communities, visitors and divers from all around the world have also travelled miles to experience it.
“Hence, the coral reefs are important sources of livelihood for the local communities and the tourism sector.
“The currently-under-investigation incident has no doubt brought serious damage to not only the ecosystem, but also to the communities’ future livelihood.
“Losing essential parts of the marine environment such as coral reefs will generate ripple effects that cause much broader depletion to fisheries, tourism, and social economy/livelihood.
“Coral reefs protect coastlines from storms and erosion, provide jobs for local communities, and offer opportunities for marine tourism,” said Monique Sumampouw, Head of Marine, WWF-Malaysia.
WWF-Malaysia constantly works with locals and operators to protect marine resources
Since 2009, WWF-Malaysia has worked closely together with dive operators and local coastal communities to raise awareness on the importance of marine resources.
“Through our Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment, Mabul Island has been identified as one of the most vulnerable islands in Semporna.
“The island is highly populated with communities that depend on tourism and fishery sectors, not to mention 155 fish species found in Mabul (Semporna Marine Ecological Expedition, 2012). “
Through a series of community engagement activities carried out by WWF-Malaysia and our partner organisations, the local communities have gained significant awareness on the importance of their natural inheritance, and have since developed an irreplaceable connection with the coral reefs.
The local communities on Mabul Island have also identified coral reefs as important resources to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Currently, a youth organisation on Mabul Island – IKLIM, is actively involved in coral restoration projects.
“As a resident on Mabul Island, I am disappointed to witness the damaged corals.
“I would like to urge the relevant authorities to take action to prevent similar incidents in the future, and to protect our coral reefs,” lamented a representative of youth climate leaders (IKLIM) from Mabul.