‘Clearing of mangroves caused floods’

The recent tidal flooding which affected more that  30 households in Kampung Sungai Batu, near here, could have been avoided if repeated warnings against the clearing of mangrove forests along Perak’s coastline had not been ignored.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia field officer Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman said he had voiced his concern over the issue as early as 2007, where he told Berita Harian that the destruction of mangrove forests would remove a natural barrier against coastal erosion and tidal surges.

“Unfortunately, the land clearing activities continued and it was only a matter of time before high tides flooded the inland areas,” said Meor Razak yesterday.

He said the mangrove forests acted as a buffer that “absorb” incoming tidal waves, effectively stopping the tidal floods from coming inland.

“Their roots, which are spread out over a large area, dissipate the energy of the waves while the excess tidal floodwaters flow into the wetlands.

“However, after the mangrove forests are cleared, only a dry expanse of land is left and it is unable to effectively absorb the tidal floodwater.”

The New Straits Times reported on Friday that Kampung Sungai Batu, which is located one kilometre from the seaside, had been inundated after 80ha of mangrove forest was removed to make way for a housing project.

Meor Razak said this expanse included two compartments of the Tanjung Burung forest reserve, which had been de-gazetted before the project began in 2011.

Land clearing activities had also been carried out in Compartment 114, north of Pantai Remis.

He said the Auditor-General’s report in 2008 had frowned upon the encroachment but no action was taken by the authorities.

Meor Razak said many stretches of the mangrove forests were under threat from development, adding that most of them were cleared to make way for prawn farms.

He said these forests were vulnerable as they were classified as state land or private land instead of permanent forest reserves.

Meor urged the state government to replant the mangrove trees to prevent tidal flooding.

“During the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the villagers were protected from the full force of the waves by the mangrove trees. There are gone now.

“At the moment, they should consider themselves lucky, as the flooding is only caused by the natural ebb and flow of the tides.

“I shudder to imagine what would happen if they had to face storm surges or tsunamis.”

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