Dead fish floating in a river Photos by Brimas
Fish being sold in a market in Miri
Once again, another wave of mysterious fish deaths in Sarawak – around Bakun, Mukah, Kapit, Marudi and in the Baram River near Miri. The worst hit is reportedly the Balui River around the jinxed Bakun Dam.
In Baram, the affected fish species include ikan baung, ikan burih, ikan tapah and ikan padi as well as various types of prawn. Sarawak NGO Brimas observed that “most of the fish seemed weak, tired and have difficulty breathing. As a result, the fish surfaced for air but after some time suffocated to death. Also, the fish appeared blind.”
Brimas found that the gills of the fishes were not clogged with mud or blocked by silt. No mud was found within the stomach or intestines of the dead fish, but the insides seemed watery. The river was described as “brownish, muddy and polluted with silt due to logging, oil palm plantations and industrial development activities.”
Brimas’ observation of “difficulty in breathing” ties in with the Ministry of Environment and Public Health’s findings, which reportedly pinned the blame on ‘suffocation’ caused by siltation, due to logging, plantations and land-clearing projects. The Ministry found a high-degree of suspended solids in certain rivers – from six to 20 times the normal level.
The Ministry put the blame on giant logging and land-clearing companies. And to think the government is giving out loan – public money – to timber companies that are clearing forests and setting up oil palm and tree plantations….
This report from The Star:
Dr Rauf said his ministry found that some giant timber companies had by-passed Environmental Impact Assessment requirements by splitting their projects into very small packages.
Under the state EIA law, any development project measuring 500 hectares and above must be subjected to EIA.
“These companies split their projects into small packages in order to escape the EIA. For example, some companies with licence to open 10,000 hectares of land had split their project into small ones measuring 499 hectares each.
“By doing this, they escape the need to carry out EIA. This happened in the upstream of Bakun. That is why these projects had caused excessive siltation and killed a lot of fish. These fish were washed down by the rivers during the floods,” he explained.
Dr Rauf said his ministry will hold a meeting with members of the Sarawak Timber Association early next month to find a way for them to cooperate to stop the environmental degradation.
By the way, what are logging firms doing upstream of Bakun?
Brimas for its part has expressed concern over the safety of villages and members of longhouses community along the Baram River. “These people are exposed to danger and environmental disaster as they entirely depend on Baram River for their daily livelihood,” it said in a statement. The group said it had seen people scooping floating fish and collecting the dying fish in Kuala Baram, which could later have been sold in local markets.