Public Outcry Blocks Marina Project that Threatens Coral on Idyllic Malaysian Island
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia A public outcry has temporarily blocked a multimillion dollar marina project that environmentalists say threatens to destroy a delicate coral reef at one of Southeast Asia's favorite diving spots.
The 40 million ringgit (US$10.5 million; euros 8.6 million) project, slated to start next month, has pitted local villagers and environmental activists against well-connected developers on Tioman, a lush, mountainous island in the South China Sea.
Conservation groups won a round when authorities issued a stop-work order recently, pending a new evaluation of the project's impact on marine life and coral. But then barges carrying construction equipment to the site pulled up, raising fears the order would be ignored.
Environment Deputy Minister S. Sothinathan was quoted by The Star newspaper Saturday as saying the developers have no permission to start work because an environmental management plan had not received government approval.
"This is clearly a breach of conditions," Sothinathan said.
Conservation groups say the marina will tear apart corals that have taken hundreds of years to form and kill endangered giant clams inhabiting the waters surrounding the island which is also an official marine park and in theory subject to stringent development controls.
Tioman lies along the southeastern coast of peninsular Malaysia. Known for dense coral gardens, the island attracts divers and enthusiasts from around the globe. The island is also known to people who have never traveled to Malaysia as the mythical Bali Hai in the 1950s Hollywood musical South Pacific.
The marina project would include the construction of yacht docking areas, a cargo jetty, water breaks, and an administration building.
The federal and state governments had defended the project as necessary for development and better tourist facilities and claimed that damage to the reef would be minimized.
Source: Associated Press