The barge incident which wiped out coral reefs the size of two tennis courts at Sipadan Island is the hottest marine topic in online discussion groups this past week. Many posts have questioned the purpose of the barge (laden with construction material and equipment) in such an environmentally sensitive area. Last year, all resorts were asked to vacate the island in efforts to regenerate coral reefs and reduce human impact. Following public outcry by local divers, the local media did their own investigations and revealed some interesting facts. These are just some of the articles that have been published:
Sipadan may be closed indefinitely
By Roy Goh
KOTA KINABALU: The Government may indefinitely close dive haven Pulau Sipadan to visitors, to allow the regeneration of coral damaged by a barge.
On Monday and Tuesday, the barge was ferrying building material and equipment to the island and damaged a section of coral near three popular dive sites: the “Drop Off”, “Barracuda Point” and “Turtle Cavern”.
A RM5 million project to build a central rest area on the island for day-trippers and quarters for park rangers and security forces personnel have been approved by the State Government. Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said yesterday that the contractor was not authorised to use a barge but a kumpit (traditional wooden boat used to transport goods or passengers).
Sabah Parks director Datuk Lamri Ali said a heavy fine would be imposed on the contractor, who has admitted fault and would co-operate in the coral restoration efforts.
Last year, five dive resorts on the island were closed after the Government decided that only park rangers and security forces personnel would be allowed to remain on the island overnight.
All the buildings were demolished, except for a few used by the rangers and security forces and an old restaurant which now serves as a rest area for day-trippers.
Source: New Straits Times, 19 May 2006