The discovery of the planting of oil palm without any buffer zones along Sungai Kinabatangan is worrying environmental groups.
Without a buffer, it could result in leakages of herbicides and pesticides into the river, which is home to the Orang Sungai community and many endangered wildlife species.
The plantation is near the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and the Pin-Supu Virgin Jungle Reserve, both of which are known habitats for wildlife species such as the orang utan, proboscis monkeys and Bornean elephants.
Kampung Batu Puteh resident Rosli Jukrana said villagers were worried that chemicals used in the plantation would flow into the river which comunities depend on for water, fish and tourism activities.
“For years, there has been much talk from the authorities about taking action against these plantations, which have planted right up to the riverbank. However, no action seems to be forthcoming.”
Rosli, who heads the MESCOT sustainable tourism and conservation initiative in Batu Puteh, expressed hope their plight would be heard by the authorities.
Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goosens said there were still oil palm companies that planted without providing forest corridors for wildlife along riverbanks.
He said it was hard not to believe that the river was unsafe with oil palm being planted close to riverbanks.
“This is a rainforest and a floodplain and without a buffer it is only logical that all the pesticides and herbicides the plantation uses may end up in the river.”
Meanwhile, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said he was aware of the matter and had asked for a full report.
“I will get to the bottom of this. It seems my repeated warnings have fallen on deaf ears and the culprits should know the Sabah government does not deal lightly with such errant acts.”