19 November 2008

Plan for artificial reef at Mabul near Sipadan

Echoing the reclamation of an existing reef on Sentosa to build an aquarium and resort, an "oceanarium resort" is planned at Mabul near Sipadan in Sabah, Malaysia.
Touted as "Malay­sia’s first and biggest oceana­rium resort of luxury chalets in Mabul", Malaysian environmentalists are protesting the plans.

What do the plans include?
  • An oceanarium with artificial reef, fake seagrass and other devices to attract fish.
  • Five clusters of more than 200 sea-view bungalows and semi-detached villas, with side pools and spa villas
  • Research facilities and scientist quarters.
What are the concerns?
  • Environmental impact: the project is on a 33ha parcel of shallows which are a 20-minute boat ride from the eco-sensitive coral reefs of Pulau Sipadan.
  • Barge transport of tonnes of construction materials, with fears of a repeat of the 2006 accident on Sipadan when a construction barge ran aground, destroying a coral reef patch the size of three tennis courts.
  • Dislocation of 2,000 traditional Bajau villagers who have have been using the area for fishing, transport and passage for hundreds of years, but are considered squatters by the local land office.
Is it necessary?

According to Sabah Environment Protection Association president Wong Tack.
  • "The whole idea of an oceanarium seems quite strange given that people can already see all the fish and sealife in the pristine clear waters without the need for such a facility,"
  • The existing four resorts for higher-bracket tourists and five to 10 homestay places for backpackers with a total of more than 250 rooms, provided enough accommodation for the 120 divers given permits to dive in Sipadan waters daily.
According to State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun
  • Sabah needed more high-end tourism products such as resorts “to value add what nature has endowed us.”
  • But he added that the developers would need to get approval for the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) before it can get off the ground.
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