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Monday, April 12, 2010

Other ways to save Redang

I READ the article, “Pulau Redang aims to lure the rich with room rates no less than RM1,600,” (The Star, April 9)and being an environmental engineer, was bemused by the link drawn by the Terengganu government between expensive hotels and environmental conservation.

First of all, I must applaud the state government for their desire to do something about the environment there.

To save the island and the rich marine life in its surroundings needs proper environmental planning, regulation and enforcement, rather than phasing out all cheap accommodation and building only five-star hotels with exorbitant room rates!

The most important factor to consider is the environmental load on the island and this should be closely linked to the number of tourists arriving over a period of time.

The more tourists arrivals, the higher the environmental load and consequently the higher the pollution level, even if proper mitigating steps are put into place.

By making the island a very expensive place to visit, it is obvious that the state government intends to reduce the environmental load on Redang by making it exclusively for the rich.

However, this is not really necessary as the number of tourists arrivals can be easily restricted by controlling the number of chalets and hotels available.

If demand exceeds supply, prices of these accommodations will increase over time.

The state government can increase the cost of permits for these operators to finance its expenditure on the environmental conservation efforts that are being undertaken.

Over time, the price that reflects the cost of maintaining the environment will stabilise according to market forces, but it will not be so exorbitant that it will be out of reach for the common man.

If Pulau Redang does not already have a centralised sewage system, this is the first thing that should be built, including proper sewerage networks so that no raw sewage is channelled directly to the sea.

Nowadays, localised sewage systems (as opposed to centralised ones) are also gaining popularity as an extensive sewer network can be avoided.

Localised sewage systems are cheaper and low maintenance systems can do the job just as well.

If this option is more favourable, Pulau Redang can be divided into sections, with each section having its own local sewage system.

Enforcement can be done by regular checks to ensure all premises operating on the island comply with regulations and not dump waste illegally into the sea.

Making Pulau Redang available only for the rich, and building five or six-star accommodations will not necessary lead to a reduction of pollution and the continuing deterioration of its environment if the environmental assessments, planning and enforcement mentioned earlier are not carried out.

I have seen first-hand, while snorkelling at Pulau Tioman some years ago, how an anchor dropped by an expensive yacht in a no-anchoring zone was dredging and smashing the corals at the sea bed as it was tossed about by the sea.



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