Green SURF

KOTA KINABALU (26th July 2010): Mud flats at Dent peninsula, the area earmarked for a coal power plant, is home to corals and four different types of sea grass, making it a unique ecosystem.

Though it is muddy at the seabed level, waters at this area are clear, allowing for small reef patches to grow. As mud flats cover a large area, collectively reefs and sea grass in this ecosystem are important for fish populations and nesting.

Green SURF (Sabah Unite to Re-Power the Future) decided to raise this point for public knowledge after carrying out its own survey to verify the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) report for the proposed 300 megawatt power plant at Kampung Sinakut, Lahad Datu.

Types of corals and species which depend on them at a mud flat off Kampung Sinakut in Lahad Datu. Photographs were taken at sampling sites mentioned in the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA).

In a statement, Green SURF said the DEIA did not compare corals within a mud flat to a similar ecosystem.

WWF-Malaysia Borneo Programme chief technical officer Dr Rahimatsah Amat said in reporting low coral diversity for the area, comparisons were made to coral reefs in places like Tioman instead of another mud flat.

“Comparisons are made with coral ecosystems, not to similar habitats, and therefore misleading,” he said.

A fish at the mud flat off Kampung Sinakut in Lahad Datu.

WWF-Malaysia is a member of Green SURF, a coalition that includes Sabah Environment Protection Association (SEPA), Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and Partners of Community Organisations (Pacos).

Rahimatsah said the report’s finding that there was 16 per cent of coral coverage is considered high as it is a soft sediment seabed area, not commonly known for having reefs.

Divers and professional photographers who checked sampling sites mentioned in the report, also discovered corals that they were unable to describe and those not commonly seen at other dive locations.

This could indicate that there are species that have yet to be discovered, making it an area of high priority for conservation, but this was not highlighted by the DEIA report.

They also saw lobsters and a variety of fish at pristine waters which fall under the Coral Triangle and Sulu Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion.

A lobster at the mud flat off Kampung Sinakut in Lahad Datu.

Green SURF also said at another site close to the proposed plant, mangroves run into coral reefs, a rare gift of nature that could create eco-tourism spin offs for its outstanding scenery.