Thursday, July 30, 2009

ICU

I regret to announce that this blog is currently under sedation in the intensive care unit for treatment of inactivititis. Recovery is expected to take a while. In the meantime, a Loyal Commission of Inquiry will be established to determine how this blog deteriorated to its current moribund state. A full and impartial investigation will be launched, leaving no stone unturned. I hope the same will happen with the investigation into the late Teoh Beng Hock's death. It's sad to see that one critical thing that the government needs now is what it lacks: credibility.

On another note, I was in Tioman three weeks ago, and I saw more impressive sea creatures while snorkelling than while diving*. I was pleasantly surprised that the house reef just off the beach at the southern end of Salang bay hosted bumphead parrotfish, a moray eel and some razorfish, which are creatures we normally see only when diving at less accessible sites. There was a turtle too, but I was most pleased to see the small school of five bumphead parrotfish, each about one metre long. They hung around the reef in usually in the late afternoon and allowed us close encounters. We went snorkelling on Monday afternoon, Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, and all three times we saw the bumphead parrotfish. The only other times I've ever seen bumphead parrotfish were while diving at Perhentian and Sipadan. I guess I'll have to change my impression of Tioman. I previously assumed that since Tioman was getting very developed and well-visited, the nearshore marine environment would have deteriorated and become rather lifeless. So I was proven wrong, apparently.

*[ We dived at Chebeh and Malang Rock. Chebeh had nice swim-through passages under the boulders, plus colourful sea fans and nudibranchs. I caught a glimpse of a blacktip shark at Malang Rock but the visibility was too poor for us to spot any whale sharks. :P ]

But, I must still say, the conditions on land are not very appealing. The little river flowing to the sea at Salang is filled with untreated or minimally treated wastewater from restaurant kitchens and chalet bathrooms. The river bed is mucky with an awful black colour, and there's a foul odour at certain times. It's only because of the incoming and outgoing tides flushing the river mouth that the river doesn't become more dirty. At high tide the river stops flowing and the icky water acculumates. Then at low tide, the river drains out to the sea, taking with it all the dirty water. The next high tide brings in (relatively) clear sea water. But that just means that the yucky river water is being diluted into the sea. Well, the river condition is not THAT bad (not like the Klang River), but it's certainly not befitting of a tropical marine park island. It gets worse during weekends and peak tourist seasons when more visitors result in more dinner plates washed and toilets flushed.

In the bigger picture, there's some sort of trade-off. If visitors want cheap accommodation and food, then I suppose the operators won't be able to afford the investment in proper wastewater treatment systems. But I'm not sure if the chalet operators are earning lucrative incomes or scraping by with the minimum. Some visitors would say that they are already paying so much for their spartan chalet and restaurant food on the island. Well, price is relative, but is value relative too? Would you be willing to pay more for your visit if you knew that the money is used to take care of the wastes that you generate? There's no free lunch, and no free toilet flush either.

Indah Water is planning to build a proper extended aeration activated sludge centralized sewage treatment plant at Salang and Tekek. The EIA was approved in July 2008, but I'm not sure when the project will start and be completed. Let's hope that the project will do good and not cause more damage, or become a white elephant (new species on the island). Indah Water will probably be charging the chalet and restaurant operators for sewerage fees... and I wonder if the operators will pay the fees or even connect their sewerage pipes to the treatment plant in the first place. Do you pay your Indah Water bills?

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