Fishing villages draw tourists but garbage problem may keep them away

Fishing villages draw tourists but garbage problem may keep them away

MALAYSIA - The fishing villages in northern Selangor are popular destinations for Klang Valley residents seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. However, the idyllic surroundings are increasingly being marred by the sight of piles of garbage strewn all over.

Rubbish can be seen piled up next to the roads and houses, along the river bank and even floating out to sea. The sight of such pollution also makes visitors wonder if it is safe to eat the seafood caught in the area.

While the garbage issue may seem to be the result of a lack of civic-consciousness, it is actually the result of an issue that has dragged on for about 100 years.

These villages, unlike neighbourhoods in most parts of the Klang Valley, are not serviced by local councils and not have waste collection services. This is mainly due to complicated land issues that have been unresolved for decades.

Land status matters

Bagan Nakhoda Omar village community security and development committee (JKKK) chairman Heng Kee Seng said the villagers did not have land titles or Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL) even though their families had first settled in the area about a century ago.

"This is because we are on Malay Reserve Land. The land was explored and settled by the Malays but when they moved on, fishermen began settling in the other abandoned sites," he said, adding that seven other fishing villages faced similar problems.

Heng said that because of the land issue, the village was not under the jurisdiction of any local authority and consequently do not get waste collection services.

According to him, there are about 90 houses in Bagan Nakhoda Omar with about 600 residents. He said many had grown apathetic to the area's garbage woes.

"Throwing rubbish wherever it is convenient has become a habit. It is sad but even if they do not litter or make an effort to clean up the surroundings, the high tide will bring waves of garbage back into our village.

"We do not want to live next to these piles of rubbish and we know it can damage our health and the environment, but we really do not know how to handle it," Heng said.

In Bagan Parit Baru, JKKK chairman Kee Chin Yong said the villagers had TOLs but the state government had not renewed the licences that had expired two years ago.

Kee said the village was not under the jurisdiction of any local authority but most of the 1,000-odd residents preferred status quo, for fear they might have to fork out hefty sums for various fees and taxes.

Like the other villages in the area, rubbish is strewn everywhere in Bagan Parit Baru.

"We try not to make the situation any worse. Whenever there is a banquet, we will collect the rubbish and send it to the main road about 2km away to catch hold of a passing garbage truck.

"But it is a vicious cycle, we have become used to it and we feel helpless trying to resolve it," he said.

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