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23 September, Kota Kinabalu: The Sikuati coastal area has been identified to hold rich biodiversity and conservation importance. Located in Kudat, this area shows tremendous conservation significance to Tun Mustapha Park (TMP); in line with WWF-Malaysia’s stance on the importance of proper management in Malaysia’s largest multi-use park. This is also in line with Sabah Parks’ aspiration as the lead agency, aiming to gain global recognition for effective protected area management through the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Green List of Protected Areas as a global benchmark for protected and conserved areas for TMP.
The Sabah State Government, through Sabah Parks and WWF-Malaysia, began its journey to protect and push for the gazettement of TMP with relevant government agencies 18 years ago and continuously work with communities, and other NGOs to advocate for stronger protection and management of these areas of rich biodiversity, to ensure harmonious co-existence between people and nature.
“WWF-Malaysia strongly believes that proper protection of TMP will greatly benefit the areas in and around it. Any environmental risks posed to this area could have a domino effect which can lead to detrimental results, affecting the many people who rely on the richness of this area,” said Dr Henry Chan, Director of Conservation, WWF-Malaysia.
In order to achieve a win-win situation between people and nature, WWF-Malaysia supports transparency and inclusivity in any development process.
“We strongly believe that there are conditions to be adhered to when dealing with any development process - first; a feasibility study should be made prior to any approval while taking into account all data provided from relevant stakeholders, and second; to conduct a robust Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to assess cumulative impacts from a project to develop comprehensive and effective mitigation measures, which will also lead to a better-informed decision-making process. Concurrently, all consultations with regards to the project must be made transparent to all parties involved with genuine efforts to achieve sustainable development,” Dr Chan continued.
This will pose an opportunity for all - including the public - to be well informed with comprehensive assessments, inclusivity in the consideration of any comments made towards the process, transparency in the progression of EIAs, and adequate mitigation measures based on proven data.
Located 14.5 km west of Kudat Town, the Sikuati coastal area includes part of the Kudat and Marudu Bay Class V Mangrove Forest, located north of the area and adjacent to TMP’s preservation zone. The Preservation Zone in TMP provides for the preservation of the natural integrity and conservation of the Park through the protection and management of its sensitive habitats, keeping them away from potentially damaging activities.
Activities such as mining will have an adverse impact on the environment, such as land deterioration and erosion, loss of biodiversity, siltation, sedimentation, and run-off to the sea.
This will affect the 51.3% of good live coral cover near the north of Sikuati. Concurrently, it will also threaten the marine turtle foraging grounds near Sikuati coast found in a recent study conducted by the Borneo Marine Research Institute of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).
The surrounding communities will also be highly impacted by the proposed silica sand mining project due to its proximity to the processing site which produces fine silica dust particles. These particles are known to be hazardous to the human body with long-term exposure.
With more than 5,000 fishers around the park relying on fisheries for subsistence and small-scale livelihood preservation, the Sikuati coastal area also holds geological heritage values, potential geotourism, and a thriving marine ecosystem contributing to a wide range of people living in the area and the State.
With data emphasising the biodiversity importance of Sikuati, protection of the area will benefit various groups - from the fishing industry, marine life, coastal communities, and the State’s tourism sector. It is best believed that the Sikuati coastal area may unfold even further scientific, aesthetic and cultural heritage values that must be protected through even more extensive assessments and research.
WWF-Malaysia is committed to supporting Sabah Parks for sustainable management and the protection of TMP and its coastal areas for the benefit of communities and the State’s tourism sector. It is our hope and belief that through equally shared levels of commitment from all stakeholders of this area, the Sikuati coastal area will remain in its pristine environment for the benefit of people and nature.
Photo (c) WWF-Malaysia
A map showcasing the potential impacts from the proposed silica mining