Will Perhentian Islands be pollution free?

For the past few years, Majlis Daerah Besut awards a contractor on a yearly basis through tender to collect rubbish from Perhentian Island. All operators also pay RM15/room per month for rubbish collection. However, every year there is a delay to appoint a contractor. When the contract starts, the rubbish disposal system works well as the contractor collects every day. Unfortunately, before the contract starts, the collection is not done on a daily basis. The excuse we have been given this year of ‘tak cukup peruntukan’ or ‘belum dapat peruntukan daripada kerajaan Negeri’ is not good enough. Life still goes on around the islands during election time and rubbish builds up very quickly. 2013 is Visit Terengganu Year and it is a concern because tourists are complaining about the pollution in the sea and on land.

Initially, rubbish was brought to pontoons, which are floating platforms that served as disposal sites. A large contractor boat would collect the trash from the pontoons and dispose it to mainland every day. The Marine Park Department has banned the use of these pontoons because when the pontoons are full and the sea becomes rough, bags of trash would end up in the sea. Instead of bringing their trash to the pontoons, the resorts leave the trash at designated collection sites on beaches by the jetty.

However, this year the trash has not been collected every day, the rubbish piles up at the front of resorts and the smell and sight become unbearable. Therefore, some resorts are forced to move the rubbish to the floating pontoons. In the village, they burn the trash instead. Due to the overflowing trash, many bags ended up in the sea. The head village stated on 7th of April that 3 complaints have been made.

A marine park officer was informed that the contract starts on the 16th of April. It is just less than a week time from today but the rubbish is accumulating fast and polluting the island. Even when the boat comes, the amount of rubbish is too much to be shipped out. The rubbish is accumulating faster than it is being disposed out of the island. The sea is polluted and the visibility in the sea is poor due to waste particles. There are black trash bags floating on the surface and some had split and the waste contents like plastic bottles, plastic bags, polystyrene, cardboards, chicken skin, etc spilled into the sea.

In the morning of the 9th April, the floating pontoon full of trash was swept ashore. The ropes that anchored the pontoon must have broken. All the rubbish ended up on the beach. Many plastic bags split and the waste spilled out. The sea and the beach were polluted.

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The pictures were taken at Teluk KK, Perhentian Besar. This is only one of the polluted beaches at Perhentian. If a regular collection is happening at Redang, why not at Perhentian? There is also a lack of rubbish bins at Perhentian and no rubbish collection from beaches without resorts that tourists stop for snorkelling, such as Pulau Rawa, Teluk KK, Tiga Ruang, etc.

Although there was an immediate effort to clear the rubbish from the pontoon and the beach the very next day, the damage to has been done. The beach is not entirely pollution free. Prevention is always better than damage control. This rubbish pollution is serious health, safety and environmental hazards to everyone on the island. There have been cases where people had cuts from broken glasses on the beach.

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I sincerely hope that the relevant authorities ensure that immediate and effective action is taken to resolve this problem. Please also take into consideration that the same rubbish problem repeats itself every year before a new contract is being awarded.  It is understandable that it is hard for the rubbish collection barges to arrive at the islands during the monsoon but by March the waves’ strength has decreased significantly. If building and petrol barges are able to enter the island, why can’t rubbish collection barges enter? If the state government can improve this by awarding a contractor at the beginning of the year and have rubbish collection regularly the whole year, the Perhentian Islands could be crowned again as the most beautiful islands in South East Asia.

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