Monday, July 07, 2003

Prompt action clears Pengerang coast off sludge within 10 days

KOTA TINGGI July 6 - The authorities, assisted by some 200 villagers, have managed to clear tonnes of sludge along the 40 km-stretch of Pengerang coast within 10 days from June 21.

This prompt action, initiated by the Johor Department of Environment (DoE) and Pengerang Land Office, has minimised the sludge's adverse impacts on the environment and marine life in that area.

Johor DoE Director, Tengku Bakry Shah Tengku Johan, said the sludge was believed to have come from the "APL Emerald" which hit Pulau Batu Putih at 2.40 am last June 12, spilling 150 tonnes of oil.

Nine days later, the department received reports that the oil slicks were seen off Tanjung Sepang, Teluk Ramunia, Pengerang at about 5 pm, believed to have been moved there by sea currents from Pulau Batu Putih
, he told Bernama.

A check found 14 spots, located along the 40 km-stretch between Pengerang and Tanjung Balau, Desaru, had been polluted by the oil slicks.

The affected spots are Sungai Rengit fishermen's jetty, Nelayan Beach Resort, Sungai Musoh, Sun Rising Beach Resort, Sepang Indah Beach Resort and Sea View Resort.

The others are Titian Indah Resort, Norlaili Chalet, Ekhsan Chalet, Punggai Bayu Beach Resort, Tanjung Punggai Resort, Batu Layar Beach Resort, Desaru Golden Beach Resort and Tanjung Balau Resort.

"Last June 22, we held a programme to clear the sludge, assisted by the resort operators and villagers mobilised by Mukim Pantai Timur Pengerang Penghulu Mohd Safie Amat.

"We started work at 9 am and finished by 6 pm everyday, for 10 days," said Tengku Bakry Shah.

Using spades, hoes, baskets and plastic bags, the villagers, DoE officers and resort workers toiled under the hot sun to scoop the sludge which, by that time, had solidified.

They had to take immediate action to clear the sludge as any further delay would turn tourists away from resorts there apart from threatening the livelihood of the fishermen.

Assisted by excavators and garbage-collecting lorries, the group managed to clear the coast from the black and thick sludge, 10 days after they started work.

Pengerang elected representative, Harun Abdullah, said this was the first time that such a problem was cleared in a rather quick time.

"Congratulations for all those involved, the villagers, resort operators and officials from DoE and Pengerang Land Office, otherwise more damages will be sustained," he told Bernama.

Harun had recently arranged for the paying of RM241,000 compensation to 529 fishermen whose livelihood was badly hit after "Neptank VII" spilled oil on June 14, 2002.

Tengku Bakry Shah said sludge samples had been taken for analysis by the Chemistry Department to ensure that the oil came from the APL Emerald.

"We should get the results within the next few days and the Chemistry report would be used to assist the villagers, fishermen and resort operators to submit their claims," he said.

Mohd Shafie said insurers of the ship might have to pay close to RM100,000 as compensation for the fishermen

"The figure can be higher if it involves claims from the resort and chalet operators," he said - Bernama