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Save the mangrove forest in Pitas (Sabah), Malaysia

Sabah’s laws which are supposed to safeguard the environment are being blatantly disregarded by the proponents of the large Pitas Shrimp Park, according to Sabah Environmental Protection Association.


The rapidly expanding shrimp aquaculture industry poses one of the gravest threats to the world's remaining mangrove forests and the communities they support. With shrimps becoming the most popular seafood in the world, it is estimated that over 3 million hectares of coastal wetlands, including mangroves, have already been destroyed to make room for artificial shrimp ponds.[1] The mangrove forests in Pitas, Malaysia are under threat.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Save the mangrove forest in Pitas (Sabah), Malaysia
State or province:Sabah
Location of conflict:Pitas
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Shrimps
Project Details and Actors
Project details

This is the official description: "Located in the northernmost part of Sabah, East Malaysia, Pitas Shrimp Park, this is a new, $277 million joint venture between Yayasan Sabah’s Inno-Fisheries, Sdn. Bhd., and Sunlight Seafood (Sabah), Sdn., Bhd., it will have around 1,500 shrimp ponds, a hatchery, a research and development laboratory and a training center for the commercial development of the Pacific white shrimp (Penaeus vannamei). It will employ more than 3,000 people. Yayasan Sabah’s Inno-Fisheries is a government agency dedicated to uplifting the quality of life of the citizens in Sabah, Malaysia. Sunlight Seafood is one of the leading processors and exporters of frozen seafood products in Malaysia.".

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Project area:1,500
Level of Investment:270,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:3000
Start of the conflict:2012
Company names or state enterprises:Sunlight Seafood (Sabah) from Malaysia
Relevant government actors:Chief Minister (Sabah)
Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority (Sedia),
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Sabah Environmental Protection Association.
Kampung Telaga, Kampung Gumpa, Kampung Ungkup, Kampung Boluuh Skim, Kampung Datong and Kampung Sungai Eloi.
Coalition against Land Grabbing .
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Other Environmental impactsDestruction of mangroves
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other Health impacts
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Displacement, Violations of human rights
Other socio-economic impactsDestruction of sacred areas
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of alternatives:[3] "Orang asli Mastupang Somoi, 49, from Kampung Eloi, said his people could already see environmental repercussions stemming from an alleged 404ha of mangrove forest destroyed near their village early last year. He said the felling of mangrove forests would also wipe out the natural resources collected by villagers for their daily livelihood, including fish, shellfish, prawns and snails. “We want the project stopped as we are already feeling the effects from the clear-felling done last year. Losing our mangrove trees will only add to the poverty our future generations will face,” said Mastupang, who is one of the community leaders of his village. In addition, he said that the cleared area had been home to many proboscis monkeys, the mascot of Visit Malaysia Year 2014, noting that the primates now seemed traumatised and afraid of humans." 2 March 2014, in The Star.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:So far (early 2017) it seems that destruction of mangrove forests continues although the very large shrimp farming project is in doubt. No proper EIA was carried out.
Sources & Materials
Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] The Ecologist. 'Poverty alleviation' shrimp farms destroy mangrove forest, grab indigenous land, by Camilla Capasso. 17th November 2016
[click to view]

RM360 mil Pitas shrimp project ‘bad idea’. Luke Rintod | December 31, 2013.
[click to view]

[2]Thousands of Sabah poor rail against expansion of mega shrimp project. BY JULIA CHAN. 27 April 2016.
[click to view]

Sedia to develop 1,000 acres in Pitas for shrimp farming. January 24, 2014
[click to view]

[3] Pitas aquaculture park an eco-hazard, say villagers. The Star, 2 March 2014.
[click to view]

December 21, 2014. Malaysia. Pitas Shrimp Park, a $277 Million Project. Sources: 1. The Star Online. Largest Prawn Farm to Create 3,000 Jobs. December 21, 2014. 2. Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, December 21, 2014.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Video on the situation in Pitas. The last of the mangroves - Bakau Terakhir
[click to view]

Destruction of mangroves continues in Pitas. January 12, 2015,
[click to view]

[3]Sabah CM hails Pitas prawn project. 20 December 2014.
[click to view]

Call to Action for solidarity with the Pitas communities shared by Land Rights Now, 2017.

Voices from Pitas, from Caroline Pang. A very good short documentary produced jointly with Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA, for the people of Pitas in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Six villages with 3,000 population who depend entirely on the mangrove for their livelihood are now in devastation. An aquaculture project is chewing up their resources.
[click to view]

Other documents

Villagers complain, by Julia Chan
[click to view]

[click to view]

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Last update01/02/2017
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