Friday, May 19, 2006

Sipadan island may be closed indefinitely

By Roy Goh

KOTA KINABALU: The Government may indefinitely close dive haven Pulau Sipadan to visitors, to allow the regeneration of coral damaged by a barge.

On Monday and Tuesday, the barge was ferrying building material and equipment to the island and damaged a section of coral near three popular dive sites: the "Drop-off", "Barracuda Point" and "Turtle Cavern".

A RM5 million project to build a central rest area on the island for day-trippers and quarters for park rangers and security forces personnel has been approved by the State Government.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said yesterday that the contractor was not authorised to use a barge but a kumpit (traditional wooden boat used to transport goods or passengers).

Sabah Parks director Datuk Lamri Ali said a heavy fine would be imposed on the contractor, who has admitted fault and would co-operate in the coral restoration efforts.

Last year, five dive resorts on the island were closed after the Government decided that only park rangers and security forces personnel would be allowed to remain on the island overnight.

All the buildings were demolished, except for a few used by the rangers and security forces and an old restaurant which now serves as a rest area for day-trippers.

Chong, who is also Tourism, Environment and Culture Minister, was launching three programmes: Sabah World Museum Day, the Children’s Discovery Centre and Crafts Exotica 2006 at the Sabah Museum.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

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