Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Stop monkeying around my backyard

The boss of the pack (C) Lrong Lim

Reported today: 'The ambitious Sepang Gold Coast multi-billion-ringgit beach resort project will be scaled down drastically to protect the ecology of the area. State officers said the project would only be built on a 60ha area now, about one-tenth of the earlier proposed 604ha Sepang Gold Coast. Instead of a massive holiday paradise complete with a Jurassic theme park, a nature resort, an open zoo and even a replica of the Venice canal, the revised Sepang Gold Coast will be just a cosy hideaway featuring clusters of water chalets branching out into the sea like a palm tree... Environmental concerns were of prime consideration because the project involved land reclamation and the destroying of mangrove swamps in the ecology-sensitive Bagan Lalang-Tanjung Sepat shoreline.'

Lucky that those people have decided to put a stop to this Jurassic park and Venice canal fakes. Otherwise, expect to see some real white elephants lying around in the neighborhood after a while. Just recall what happened to the Paya Indah Wetlands.

Oh yes, those primates inhabiting the mangroves.

They could be partying, for now...

Monday, March 21, 2005

Turning mud into gold...

Sunset amongst dead mangroves in Morib (C) Lrong Lim

I hang out at Morib and the surroundings often when I return for a visit. Some years ago, Golden Hope Plantations and the Selangor State Government proposed a plan to develop the area into what was dubbed the Morib Beach Resort City.

Excepts from a Golden Hope report:
'This sea front resort township master plan has been approved by the Selangor State Government and will cover a land area of 1,417.5ha. The proposed development is expected to be launched within the financial year 2000/2001. This new development will feature a beachfront retreat, resort villas, a cultural and entertainment precinct, golf links, resort island and Golden Years precinct. The company will also develop Carey Island Resort Harbour City in Klang. "But it will not be so soon because there are many that need to be taken into consideration," Azmar said, adding that it is a long-term project for the company. This resort harbour city envisions, among others, a dedicated 810ha area of heritage land as well as plantation homestead, beach front developments, an international standard golf link, herbariums, a plantation heritage museum, research and development and education zone.'

Another report said:
'Golden Hope Development Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Golden Hope Plantation Bhd, has signed a joint venture agreement with Permodalan Negeri Selangor Bhd (PNSB) to build an RM800mil beach resort in Morib over the next eight to ten years. The proposed project will cover about 323ha, of which 202ha will constitute Golden Hope land, 97ha reclaimed sea land and about 24ha an existing golf course on state land. Golden Hope Development currently owns about 688ha of plantation land in Morib. Golden Hope Development will own 70% of the joint venture company and PNSB the remaining 30%.'

Morib, in my humble opinion, is just a muddy beach. Full of sand flies. At low tide, you can almost see the mud or 'sand' if you like, as far as your eyes allow you to. At high tide, 'swimming' is hardly an option when you see the brownish seawater.

The one beautiful sight is the glorious sunset. Or, if you enjoy bird watching amongst the mangrove trees or if you love driving along kampong roads like I do, Morib is for you.

But making a 'Resort City' out of a muddy beach?

Well, as some may say, Kuala Lumpur was nothing but a muddy flat.

It is 2005 now, and thank god, Morib beach is still the same good old muddy Morib beach.

Today, it was reported in the news that the 'Selangor State Government is involved in a RM4bil project which covers a massive 1,492 hectares to turn the Sepang district coastline into a beach resort to rival the Gold Coast in Australia or even Miami Beach in Florida. The project hit a snag three weeks ago when contractors got into trouble with the local authorities for carrying out piling without following procedures. It is believed environmental concerns were raised during the meetings, including the danger of land reclamation damaging the eco-system in the area and the eventual destruction of mangrove swamps to make way for various attractions in Sepang Gold Coast. Based on this, the Sepang district council issued a stop-work order. The project, which will see the development of the beaches from Bagan Lalang to Tanjung Sepat, is a joint venture between state investment company Permodalan Negri Selangor Bhd and Sepang Bay Sdn. The exco members had even deliberated downsizing the ambitious project to about 200 hectares.'

A beach resort in the mud to rival the Gold Coast or Miami Beach? Are these people joking or what?

An odd thing is that the project owners had not even obtained the Impact Assessment (EIA) approval from the Department of Environment before starting the piling works.

How can this lapse of procedure occur, especially when the State government is involved?

The area (along with neighboring Morib?) is filled with mangrove swamps and is the only living delta in the state. It is also the only place in the state where rare clams can be found.

Anyway, I have a feeling that sooner rather than later, the mangroves will be gone while the shallows turn into reclaimed land.

Hopefully they will leave some 'space' for people like me to enjoy cruising along the kampong roads, bird watching in whatever is left of the mangroves.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Kuala Muda three months later

A house, naked at Kuala Muda (C) Lrong Lim

Just returned from spending a few days in Malaysia.

Before returning, I was yearning for the warmth of Malaysia in wintry Japan, but the heat upon walking out of the arrival hall instantly brought upon me that Malaysia is more than 'warm'.

Ooh... Malaysia... why are you so hot?

After a few hours, I found myself longing to dash out of Malaysia just to escape from the scorching heat.

Anyway, it was really a pleasure to be back home again.

While showering last night, I felt the spare tires in my expanded midriff and that's not very good news.

No, no...

Come to think of it, I didn't quite give myself a chance to feel hungry before I began sinking my teeth into some goodies again.

No, this couldn't be a punishment for being such a glutton, could it?

What a pig.

Drove up to take a look at Kuala Muda.

Even for a Kedahan like me, it was my first time to be there.

It was a real hot afternoon when we drove to Kuala Muda.

The 'houses' still stood there, apparently as devastated as they were three months ago.

I could not see any sustained reconstruction efforts except for a renovation here and an extension there.

My impression was that, the devastated houses seemed to be poorly built in the first place.

The broken walls were thin and the foundations did not look strong.

Some kilometers from the devastated area stood the temporary housing for the victims.

They are simple wooden long houses, built in rows.

I imagine it must be quite an oven inside.

I heard from the 'wind' that the government intends to leave the devastated area as it is, at least for a while, just to 'show people'.

Could this be untrue?

As with the kampong folks near my kampong, the Kuala Muda folks do not appear to be 'well-off'.

Which brings me to ask: How sincere are the 'leaders' in their pledge to assist these humble folks... to live in their own modest homes again?

After all, it's been three months since that fateful day.

Meanwhile we hear of lavish swimming-pooled 'exco villages' being built somewhere for some fat cats to laze around in the sun.

Obscene, may I say?

I longed to see something nice, just to get away from this obscenity.

So I headed to nearby Pantai Merdeka.

While a schoolboy at Sultan Abdul Hamid College, I used to go green at those people who could go to this pantai for swimming.

Never mind if the water is blue or black; I had expected the beach to be, 'nice'.

Oh well, at least it feels good to know that I did not miss much during my schooldays.

Only that, I wasted my energies feeling green at nothing.