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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fireflies lose sparkle as mangroves come down

NDISCRIMINATE land clearing along the banks of Sungai Selangor are threatening the fireflies in Kampung Kuantan, Kuala Selangor.

The acts of some irresponsible land owners who have rented out their plots to outsiders have been identified as the main culprits.

The riverbanks have been cleared of the mangrove treess such as nibong and rumbia, and replaced with those that will generate higher income including oil palm.

The original trees were not only conducive to the existence of the millions of the fireflies that live on berembang trees but have also been a source of income for the villagers who weaved attap roofs from the rumbia and nibong leaves.

A check also revealed that the facilities at the sanctuary were not fully used due to a lack of visitors.

On the way: Visitors preparing for a trip downriver as the sun begins to set.

The gazebos are left empty while the playground equipment has also been left unattended.

The tourist development centre which is located just behind the jetty also appeared to be in a deplorable state.

Sahar Lahajar, who is a coordinator at the Kampung Kuantan firefly sanctuary, said the land clearing work started in 2007.

He said Kampung Lubok was one of the areas where major clearing had been done.

“The nibong and rumbia trees had been replaced with oil palm trees, while some areas have not been planted with any crops yet.

“The indiscrimate land-clearing is not good for the fireflies as the insects live on the mangrove trees,’’ he said, adding that the land clearing had also been done along the riverbanks at the sanctuary.

Besides felling trees, Sahar said the irresponsible parties had also conducted open burning and built drains in the area.

He said there were 31 boatmen at the sanctuary, which was one of the state’s unique tourist attractions.

Sahar said the number of visitors to the village had not been encouraging in recent years and he felt that the mangrove trees must be protected.

Serene sight: The river comes alive at night as millions of fireflies light up the gloom.

“The government has done its bit to save the fireflies by barring boats with engines since 2004.

“They have also improved the facilities around the jetty and I think they should also do something to stop the clearing of the trees so that we will not lose this natural heritage,’’ he said

Boatman Fuad Arif, 62, said Kampung Kuantan had earned its name among tourists from all over the world since 1978.

He said he was one of many who had been earning a living ferrying visitors to view the fireflies.

“It is important that the environment is maintained as naturally as possible so that the fireflies will continue to live here,’’ he said.

Kuala Selangor District Council secretary Azahari Sairin said the council had identified those who were responsible for the clearing of the mangroves and it was taking action against the culprits.

He said it was an offence to clear land within a 5km radius of the Sungai Selangor riverbanks under the Local Plan.

“We are also in discussions with the Forest Research Institute of Malayisa (FRIM) on the possibility of planting mangroves at the affected areas,’’ he said.


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