Reclamation, a human activity that can transform an entire environment in a relatively short time, epitomizes one of the pinnacles of engineering achievement—creation of new landmass. As demonstrated by the construction of the Chek Lap Kok and Kansai airports in Hong Kong and Japan respectively, whole new islands can be created in this way and, in the process, landscapes, eco-systems and livelihoods could be altered. Considering the potential and major implications, reclamation projects call for a comprehensive assessment of environmental impacts ranging from the direct to the residual, and from the quantifiable to the intangible. Reclamation works have been carried out along Malaysia's coast since the 1950s but it was only in the 1990s that it has captured much public attention, and mostly, due to the conceptual proposals of several large scale reclamation plans along the coast of Peninsular Malaysia facing the Straits of Malacca.
This chapter describes the history of erosion control and reclamation works in Malaysia and discusses the initiatives carried out to address the problems they pose.
Coastal erosion and reclamation in Malaysia can be linked to the demands and impacts of development in the coastal zone where 70% of the Malaysian population is centered. Coastal erosion is a natural phenomenon on certain shorelines, but is essentially of little interest to us unless it threatens lands or properties of significant economic value. Coastal erosion problems usually stem from anthropogenic intrusions into the dynamic zones of the coastal areas. Such intrusions are usually permanent and include structural development and crop cultivation. More worryingly, erosion may also occur due to poor selection of coastal protection methods as a result of insufficient understanding of the erosion problem itself. With human interests being paramount, coastal erosion problems and the need for engineering solutions to control them are primarily considered from an economic point of view. The National Coastal Erosion Study determined that nearly 30% of Malaysia's coast is threatened by erosion prompting the government into executing an erosion control program.
Malaysia and its coastline
Malaysia consists of two regions separated by the South China Sea. Peninsular Malaysia or West Malaysia is geographically the southern-most part of the Asian continent. East Malaysia occupies the north and a west region of Borneo and comprises two of Malaysia's 13 states. The coastline of Malaysia, including the major islands such as Langkawi, Penang, Pangkor, Labuan and Tioman, is 4,809 km long. Peninsular Malaysia has a coastline 1,972 km long with a west coast fronting the Straits of Malacca and an east coast that faces the South China Sea. East Malaysia's coastline is significantly longer at 2,837 km. The west coast of Sabah and the entire coastline of Sarawak essentially form the west coast of Borneo and adjoin the South China Sea. Sabah, which occupies the northern tip of Borneo, also has an east coast facing the Sulu Sea.
The west coast of Peninsular Malaysia is dominated by mud flats. They represent 72% of the west coast and are typically lined with wide mangrove belts as seen in Perak, Selangor and Johor. The sandy beaches on the west coast are intermittent and situated between rocky headlands of weathered sandstone and granite. In contrast, 90% of the beaches of the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia are sandy and constantly enriched by ample sediment loads from several major rivers such as the Pahang River, Kelantan River and Terengganu River. The coastline of East Malaysia is a similar combination of sand and mud beaches with sandy beaches forming 76% of the Sarawak coastline. Mud beaches are slightly more dominant in Sabah and covers 54% of its coastline.
Mangroves occupy 637,164 hectares of the coastal land and are the dominant coastal species of the west coast of Malaysia and much of Sabah's eastern shores. In sand dominated shorelines like the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, mangrove colonies are isolated to river estuaries and inlets.
The west coast of Malaysia is sheltered from the Indian Ocean by the island of Sumatera and the Straits of Malacca separates the two land masses. The Straits of Malacca, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, is about 600 nautical miles long and only 11 nautical miles wide at its narrowest point. Due to the position of Sumatera, fetch lengths within the lower two thirds of the Straits are limited to 40 to 130 km resulting in a relatively low wave-energy environment on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Wave heights are limited to about 1.5 meters by offshore sand banks and nearshore mud-flats. Only the north portion of the west coast is exposed to the longer period waves from the Andaman Sea to the northwest. Monsoonal effects provide the highest wave scenarios and maximum waves of 2 to 3 meters may occur in the Straits of Malacca during the South-west Monsoon which blows in from May to September. However, analysis of deepwater wave climate during the South-west Monsoon reveal that in the north of Penang, the prevalent wave direction is from the north-west which can reach a maximum period of 14 seconds (Economic Planning Unit, 1986). The Straits of Malacca is also occasionally rough due to squalls when surface wind speeds can reach 90 km h−1. These squalls, sometimes called the “Sumateras,” develop at night over the straits and propagate eastwards bringing heavy rains to the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
Although the fetch lengths may extend to the Andaman Sea, the north sector of Peninsular Malaysia's west coast is less exposed due to the presence of several large islands such as Langkawi and Penang. The coastal environment here is thus sheltered and over the past few decades have contributed to the growth and spread of large mangrove areas such as in the Larut Matang area on the Perak state shoreline and the entire northern Selangor coastline.
In contrast, the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia is exposed to the South China Sea and fetch-lengths reach as far as 450 km to southern Vietnam. Deepwater significant wave heights of 2.7 to 4.8 meters have been recorded offshore of Terengganu during severe conditions which are usually encountered during the North-east Monsoon that occurs from October till March. The North-east Monsoon brings heavy rains to the Peninsular and replaces the typical swells that nurture the east coast shoreline with plunging breakers.
In terms of fetch distances, those applicable to the west coast of Sabah and that of Sarawak are nearly identical to those of Peninsular Malaysia's east coast. Due to its orientation, East Malaysia's west coast is more influenced by residual effects of the two monsoons mentioned above. The north part of Borneo has in recent years come within the influence of tropical cyclones that originate in the Pacific ocean which occasionally create extreme wind conditions. The passage of these cyclones or typhoons over the northern fringe of the Malaysian region strengthens the prevailing surface winds producing sufficient duration to generate high waves in the equatorial South China Sea (Yeong and Lim, 1991). These then propagate southwards towards the west coast of East Malaysia.
The tidal range along the Peninsular's west coast is generally from 2.0 to 2.5 meters. The largest tidal range occurs at Port Klang where spring tide range of over 4 meters has been recorded. Tidal ranges in Peninsular Malaysia's east coast and most of East Malaysia is within the region of 1 to 3.5 meters. Tidal patterns are either semi-diurnal or mixed.
Coastal erosion in Malaysia was first highlighted on a national scale in the early 1980's when wide stretches of agricultural land abutting the coastline were seriously affected by erosion. These included major paddy, coconut and oil palm areas along the coasts of the states of Selangor, Kedah and Johor.
The National Coastal Erosion Study
National Coastal Erosion Study (1984–1986) was the first comprehensive study of the Malaysian shoreline and its coastal erosion problems. This seminal study, funded by the Asian Development Bank, revealed a shoreline situation serious enough to be declared a national problem by the government. It classified Malaysia's shoreline into three categories of erosion based on the rate of erosion and the threat to existing shore-based facilities of substantial economic value and defined as follows:
Category 1: Shorelines currently in a state of erosion and where shore-based facilities or infrastructure are in immediate danger of collapse or damage;
Category 2: Shorelines eroding at a rate whereby public property and agriculture land of value will become threatened within 5 to 10 years unless remedial action is taken;
Category 3: Undeveloped shorelines experiencing erosion but with no or minor consequent economic loss if left unchecked.
The National Coastal Erosion Study identified that 29% of the Malaysian coastline was in various stages of retreat. The study determined that apart from the natural causes of erosion, certain cases were in fact due to human activities. Uncontrolled development within or very close to the active zones of the beach was found to be the source of erosion problems. The National Coastal Erosion Study was then supplemented by the National Coastal Erosion Control Sector Project (Government of Malaysia, 1991) which proposed the necessary erosion control works for selected critical areas.
Coastal erosion areas
Table 1 describes the erosion areas (updated) on the Malaysian coast (Saw, 2000). About 25% of eroding shorelines on the west coast is either in Category 1 (critical) or Category 2 (significant). The west coast of Peninsular Malaysia is the most developed region in the country with agricultural, commercial, residential and industrial interests within its coastal belt. Although this coastline is sheltered and subjected to milder wave conditions than the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, it accounts for 38% of the total length of eroding shorelines. This is almost equal to the length of eroding shorelines on the east coast although the latter is exposed to larger waves.
The impact of development is evident as 45 of the 74 erosion sites originally identified in Category 1 by the National Coastal Erosion Study are located on the highly urbanised and agriculturally-developed west coast of Peninsular Malaysia (see Figure 1). Erosion is particularly recurrent along coastal agricultural lands found in Perak (Bagan Datoh), Selangor (Sabak Bernam) and Johor (districts of Pontian and Batu Pahat). These lands were originally inter-tidal lands with wide mangrove belts which were reclaimed over the last century and protected by bunds in order to support agricultural activities. In contrast, only nine Category 1 areas were initially identified in the lesser developed coastlines of East Malaysia (Figure 2).
Causes of erosion
The causes of erosion are both natural and man-induced. A beach in its natural state experiences cycles of erosion and deposition but, over a long period of time, a beach is considered stable if its mean position remains unchanged. This state of dynamic equilibrium will change if there is interference or disruption to the dominating coastal processes leading to an increase or decrease in the local sediment budget. On a longer time-scale, the migration of river mouths following major flood events has also been cited as a natural cause of erosion whereby a river entrance relocates at the shoreline as flood flows find the shortest way to the sea. This results in a new river course that carries the bulk of the flow and increased sediment supply at the new entrance, and correspondingly an old one with reduced flows and reduced supply of sediment at the old entrance. In most cases, the root causes of erosion have been man-made activities which result in direct or residual impacts to the nearshore and the beach. These are explained in the following.
In the last decade of the 20th century, intense shorefront development has contributed to the erosion problem. Prior to 1987, many major hotels have been built without proper set-back considerations and some have subsequently suffered the effects of erosion. In Port Dickson and Penang Island, hotels have been built on the backshore resulting in the loss of beach dunes. As developers proceed to optimise the limited beach space, some encroached into the active zones of the beach. The development and expansion of ports and harbours along the coasts have also resulted in shifts in sediment transport patterns and contributed to the erosion. These are apparent on the east coast where port development between Kuala Terengganu and Kuantan were directly responsible for erosion at adjacent shorelines.
Removal of coastal vegetation
In the west coast of Penang Island, Perak, Selangor and Johor, large stretches of low-lying, mud shoreline have bunds to protect low-lying agriculture land from saline intrusion. Erosion of these mud coasts have been attributed to the depletion of the mangrove belts. Mangrove trunks and protruding roots act as natural wave attenuators and their indiscriminate removal have resulted in unprecedented erosion in several areas in the states mentioned above. Mangrove trunks have long been used as construction piling and can be used to produce charcoal, tannin, paper and dyes. These multiple uses explain why they are wantonly, and often illegally, harvested.
Conversion of mangrove forests into aquaculture farms
A good number of aquaculture farms are located on agricultural land on shorelines that have bunds. Apart from removing mangrove to create space for breeding ponds, aquaculture farm owners were seen to have a tendency to remove mangroves growing seawards of the bunds to use as timber. Shahrizaila Abdullah (1992) cites that twenty five thousand (25,000) hectares of mostly mangrove lands were converted into aquaculture farms in 1988.
Inappropriate protection schemes or structures
Shoreline erosion sometimes stems from a poor selection of protection techniques, or as a result of construction on an adjacent shoreline. Piece-meal protection of shorelines using revetments and perpendicular shore structures, such as groynes, often result in erosion on the down drift side. Breakwaters are built for the purpose of keeping navigation channels at river mouths open. These usually extend much further into the sea compared to groynes and have a greater effect in reducing the volume of littoral sediment transport to the down drift area. An example to this effect occurred at Pantai Sabak, Kelantan on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia where the construction of breakwaters at the mouth of the Pengkalan Datu River aggravated the erosion at the adjacent Pantai Sabak on its downdrift side. The depletion of sediment supply resulted in erosion of 20 meters within 7 months of the completion of the northern arm of the breakwaters. The southern arm was completed 10 months after the northern arm and within the following year, an additional 60 meters of erosion had occurred (Lee, 1990).
In the 1990's, coastal reclamation became rampant as demand for commercial land increased. The volume required for reclamation could only be obtained from marine sources thus leading to increased offshore mining. Coastal reclamation projects often change the plan-form shape and also the angle of the shoreline to the dominant wave approach leading to shifts in the littoral transport patterns. Deepening of the nearshore area, often due to illegal dredging, has a direct influence on wave refraction patterns and lower depths, in general, allow higher waves to penetrate shorewards.
Erosion control strategy
Following the National Coastal Erosion Study, the Malaysian government adopted a two-pronged strategy to address coastal erosion. The first strategy dealt with the implementation of structural or engineering works to protect Category 1 areas. This short-term strategy was aimed at abating or preventing further economic loss. It primarily involved the construction of revetments and the re-nourishment of beaches on Category 1 shorelines. The second strategy was for the long-term and includes the introduction of institutional changes and formulation of administrative guidelines to manage future development. Consequently, a National Erosion Control Council (NECC) and Coastal Engineering Technical Center (CETC) were established in 1987 by the Malaysian Government to manage coastal erosion issues. The former decides on the erosion status of eroding sites and monitors works implementation. The CETC acts as the technical arm of the NECC and is set-up within the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID). The CETC advises on the coastal engineering aspects and recommends the necessary course of action. The CETC is now part of the Coastal Engineering Division of the DID which is the implementing agency for erosion control works and monitoring of shorelines.
Coastal protection measures
With infrastructure and agricultural interests abutting the shore, the authorities often have very little choice but to stop erosion by using revetments and sea walls. While these alleviate the problem in the immediate area, they often deprive sediment to down drift shores. Beach nourishment was also introduced into several Category 1 beaches in Penang, Terengganu and Kelantan. Following the growing understanding of protection methods and techniques, a combination of structures and beach nourishment has been successfully used in recent years to protect shorelines of coastal towns such as Melaka and Dungun (in the state of Terengganu). The most common shore protection initiatives are described below.
Since 1985, a total of about 80 km of coastline has been protected with revetments. Due to the severity of the erosion, and the limitation of funds, revetments were often the only solution for these Category 1 areas. A majority of these revetments were armoured with quarry stones based on the design procedures of the Shore Protection Manual (USACE, 1984). Quarry stone revetments can be seen in almost every state along the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Along the agricultural areas, revetments were built directly on the slope of the existing bunds. In Sungai Burung and Sungai Sekendi along the Selangor coastline, interlocking concrete units were used to protect the slope of coastal bunds and the escarpment of eroding mangrove belts. Weighing 50 kg per unit, these units performed well on the weak, silty clay soils of the area. Interlocking concrete revetments, as recommended in the National Coastal Erosion Control Sector Project report, are a suitable alternative in areas where rock or quarry stone armour is not economically viable. Furthermore, they are often preferred over quarry stone ones, especially on public and recreational beaches, for aesthetic reasons. The use of interlocking concrete units has found more success on the lower wave energy shorelines particularly on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia than on the east coast.
About 20 km of eroding shorelines in Malaysia have been protected by beach nourishment schemes. Beach nourishment involves the construction of a protective berm on the native beach using imported sand fill from offshore sources. The shores of Penang (Butterworth) and Terengganu (Kuala Terengganu) were amongst the first areas to have benefited from this. In Port Dickson, timely re-nourishment works completed in 1994 preserved the beach as a popular picnic destination in the southern west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. In contrast, the re-nourishment volume placed in Pantai Sabak, Kelantan, was found to be insufficient to protect the backshore when a single monsoon caused the loss of nearly half of the newly constructed beach berm. A study commissioned by the government revealed that the material, although still present in the foreshore, had been redistributed thinly throughout the foreshore resulting in the lowering of berm levels and a flatter nearshore slope (Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Malaysia, 2001).
The construction of coastal protection works creates permanent changes to the coastal environment particularly along mangrove coasts. Implementing coastal protection works in these areas necessitate the removal of some mangrove trees to allow access for construction vehicles and to create workspace.
Beach nourishment schemes are preferred for holiday beaches but their implementation is often met with much concern as it caused water quality to degrade during the filling-in phase. Occasionally, these projects also affect traditional fishing grounds.
Amongst the first initiative by the Malaysian Government in terms of its long-term erosion control strategy was in the form of General Administrative Circular No. 5/1987. This circular instructs that all proposed development in the coastal zone must be referred to the CETC (now the Coastal Engineering Division, DID) so as to pre-empt potential future coastal erosion and other problems that may arise from the intended development. In 1997, the Guidelines for Erosion Control for Development Projects in the Coastal Zone (JPS 1/97) was produced by the DID to advice developers and project proponents on the environmental sensitivities of the coastal zone, the coastal erosion or sedimentation problems that may arise from unregulated construction along the shoreline, and the impact studies required. The guidelines specify that any development that could potentially interfere with coastal processes requires a hydraulic study which may include an assessment of hydraulic impacts by means of a numerical modelling study. Further to this, realising the need to ensure proper utilisation of numerical models in hydraulic studies, the DID introduced Guidelines For Preparation Of Coastal Engineering Hydraulic Study And Impact Evaluation (For Hydraulic Studies Using Numerical Models). This document outlines the required components of a coastal and hydraulic study and serves as a guide for consultants or project proponents in preparing them as part of the EIA requirements. Several issues relating to erosion problems, management and control on developed coasts are highlighted below.
Despite the advent of General Administrative Circular No. 5/1987, coastal development continued to pose erosion problems. Particularly lacking was the understanding of the need for proper coastal setbacks which led to many cases of property and roads being built within the influence of extreme tidal conditions and storm waves. Setbacks and guidelines for coastal development were only clearly defined in DID's Guidelines for Erosion Control for Development Projects in the Coastal Zone (JPS 1/97). The setback requirement for development on muddy coasts is 400 metres from the seaward edge of the mangrove vegetation or forest. On sandy shorelines, a general setback of 60 meters (measured from the Mean High Water Line) should be applied. In addition to this, the Department of Town and Country Planning in their Guidelines for Development in the Coastal Zone (JPBD 6/97) limits development in mangrove areas for eco-tourism to 20% of the project area. It also states that a 30 metre buffer zone must be provided between development areas and the mangrove forest.
Development and reclamation of mangrove beaches
Large tracts of mudflats have been reclaimed for commercial and residential use of the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The clearing of mangroves exceeding 50 ha. requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Since the middle of this century, an estimated 40% of mangroves have been reclaimed (Ong and Gooi, 1996).
Shoreline management plans and erosion control
Whilst coastal protection solves current erosion concerns along the coast, integrated shoreline management plans are expected to spearhead the efforts to pre-empt future erosion. The first comprehensive integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) plan in Malaysia was introduced on the west coast of Sabah in 1998. Financed by the Danish Government, it covered a varied coastal environment on a regional scale and proposed development type control including isolating certain areas for its conservation value. In 2002, adapting key elements of the Sabah ICZM, the Department of Irrigation and Drainage completed an “integrated shoreline management plan (ISMP)” for 100 kilometers of the coastline of Pahang on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
The ISMP is a mechanism for cross-consultation amongst the various government agencies monitoring or managing their respective activities on the coast. The plan has three main objectives:
To appraise and select appropriate strategies in order to assure sustainable coastal development;
To appraise and select proper coastal defence strategy and protection options;
To formulate specific management guidelines and policies for development activities in the coastal area of concern
The ISMP is designed to be the core activity in the nation's erosion control strategy for the 21st century with the immediate objective of producing ISMPs for all states.
The history of coastal reclamation in Malaysia dates as far back as the eighth century when wet-rice cultivation was introduced in what is now the coast of the state of Kedah. In the 19th century, large-scale land reclamation was done by Chinese immigrants on Batu Kawan Island to create land for sugar cultivation. These were ‘polder-type’ reclamations involving the bunding of the landward portions of accreting mangrove coasts. Polder-type coastal reclamation for agriculture continued into the 20th century whereby in the Krian district of Perak, 12,500 hectares were reclaimed following the Irrigation Areas Enactment Act 1899 (Bahrin and Teh, 1991). Landfill reclamation involves the seaward extension of the original coastline using similar material and is normally associated with urban development and the demand for commercial and industrial space. Melaka and Sabah were reported to have started coastal reclamation of this type prior to 1957 with extensions of their foreshore for commercial purposes (Bahrin and Teh, 1991).
Coastal reclamation plans
Although earlier efforts were mainly for agriculture, recent coastal reclamation proposals were for mixed development purposes. Coastal reclamation became a serious development option in the early 1990's at a time when a vibrant economy saw Malaysia emerge as a newly-developed nation. The transformation of the nation's economy from agriculture-based to manufacturing-based saw an expansion of industrial areas which were traditionally located around coastal towns. The combined impact of a rising urban population and expanding industrial centers, all located along the coast, were factors that led to mounting demands for prime land.
The success of coastal reclamation projects as achieved by Japan and Hong Kong had, to a certain extent, encouraged local developers to pursue the same in Malaysia. Prior to 1990, cases of land reclamation were few with the states of Sabah, Melaka and Penang being the pioneers in developing reclaimed coastal land. Penang's Central Business District Development—21st Century programme was a key development accomplishment in the 1980s and yielded 3,875 hectares of land. In 1996, the Kedah state government announced its Kedah Coastal Reclamation Plan, a mammoth plan that proposed to reclaim in stages a total of 16,300 hectares of coastal land on 100 kilometers of coastline. Purported to be the largest reclamation works ever proposed in history, its premise was the provision of an entirely new coastline and an added dimension to the traditionally agriculture-led economy of the state. The plan raised concerns throughout the region and both government and non-governmental agencies remonstrated as to the potential environmental impacts that may result. Even as the impacts were being duly studied, the draw of adding more coastal land for commerce and industry proved very attractive and the states of Selangor, Perlis and Negeri Sembilan, all on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, have followed suit with conceptual plans of their own as illustrated in Table 2.
The interest and the intensity at which the coastal reclamation option was pursued by project proponents, particularly on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, can be explained by the presence of factors such as the following.
Shallow coastal waters
The waters of the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia usually feature wide inter-tidal flats some extending beyond 1 kilometer. Nearshore water depths, in general, average around 3 meters and are relatively less demanding on fill material from a construction viewpoint.
Cost and issues of development
The division of powers between the Federal Government and respective State Government on issues regarding land and water resources are clearly defined by the Malaysian Constitution. Due to this, the justification of reclamation plans by project proponents need only be focused towards the development targets and requirements of individual state governments rather than towards a broad national or federal government agenda. The cost of coastal reclamation also compares well against the current price of prime coastal land and avoids potentially encumbering issues such as human re-settlement, relocation or modification of infrastructure and compensation.
Preservation of land with national economic importance
Certain states contribute substantially in terms of agriculture produce to the national economy. These agriculture lands, although strictly under state control, serve the national interest to an extent that conversion to other uses may impact national food security. Kedah, for instance, is the nation's “rice bowl” and home to major granary areas. These states, while obliged to serve the national interest, are even greater pressed for commercial and industrial land.
Methods of reclamation
Reclamation can be divided into two types namely: (i) peninsular or strip; (ii) island. The peninsular method is shore-connected and relatively easier to construct since land access is possible. It changes the plan-form shape of the original shoreline and distances the original shoreline from the sea. In shallow waters, the peninsular type is more economical since it needs a lesser volume of fill-material but counteractively requires more extensive designs for hinterland drainage. The ‘island’ method has the benefits of preserving the amenities of the coastline it proposes to front and shelters the original shoreline from wave attack. However, the separating channel must be designed to allow sufficient tidal-flushing which is critical to the drainage system, the stability of habitats and sustenance of coastal eco-systems. A comparison of the two types of coastal reclamation is presented in Table 3.
Issues related to coastal reclamation
Coastal reclamation projects have direct and residual impacts on the surrounding environment. Being on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia and in the Straits of Malacca, the proposed major reclamation projects as described in Table 2, threaten to narrow an already congested international shipping passage. The major issues that need to be considered for coastal reclamation projects are briefly described in the following:
Institution and regulation
Reclamation projects are regulated by the Environmental Quality (amendment) Act (1985). If the reclamation area exceeds 50 hectares, it falls within the classification of “prescribed activities”—a list of specific development works or activities as defined by the Environmental Assessment Order 1987 (Prescribed Activities) where an EIA report must be submitted and approved by the Department of Environment prior to the implementation of physical works. Further to this, the magnitude of these proposed reclamation projects by the various state governments compounded with multi-faceted development over adjacent areas are now required to have a macro-EIA covering the entire proposed area for a better perception of the cumulative impacts.
The macro-EIA was first imposed on the Melaka Coastal Reclamation Project and facilitated an overall and collective appraisal of the impacts. Nonetheless, the individual project proponents still needed to conduct detailed EIA which focussed on determining their best option and incorporating mitigative measures. Based on goals of prevention, abatement and impact regulation, the macro-EIA study has become a useful tool for assessing large-scale direct and residual impacts and proposing the necessary remedial measures.
Mangroves serve as a nursery and spawning area for various marine species and a habitat to larvae and juvenile marine life. Changes to the hydraulics and water quality regime are potential threats to the survival of mangroves and other coastal vegetation particularly if the peninsular method of reclamation is employed. The material placement phase of reclamation is of utmost concern since currents could transport and deposit sediments on mangrove areas leading to their suffocation.
Applications for offshore sand mining are scrutinised by various government agencies for potential environmental impacts including the Department of Irrigation and Drainage and the Department of Minerals and Geosciences. Project proponents are required to identify their source of sand fill for their specific coastal reclamation projects. The selection of suitable sources requires the following considerations:
Legal and statutory conditions;
Distance and economic considerations; permissible sand resource areas must be at a distance greater than 1.5 km from the shoreline and at a minimum depth of 10 meters.
Traditional fishing grounds.
Offshore sand mining over areas exceeding 50 hectares is a “prescribed activity” under the Environmental Assessment Order 1987 (Prescribed Activities) and requires an EIA study to be conducted.
Erosion and reclamation are the two dominant issues that always feature in any coastal development plan on Malaysia's coast. While erosion is caused by meteorological forces, intervention is usually considered only when something of economic importance is threatened. Coastal reclamation creates land for economic activities, and hence requires perpetual protection from erosion. Erosion control and reclamation are thus invariably linked with human development.
Several action plans have been initiated to ensure sustainable development continues along Malaysia's coastal zone. The ISMP is being instituted by the Department of Irrigation and Drainage Malaysia as the answer to reducing the risk of development-induced coastal erosion problems. It signals the pre-planned shift in erosion control strategy from the curative to the preventive as earlier recommended in the National Coastal Erosion Study. Reclamation remains the greatest challenge to Malaysia's marine environment. Although most of the major reclamation proposals have yet to be implemented, their conceptual plans have brought about much scientific discourse and created greater interest in the marine environment among local professionals and the general public. Meanwhile, the Government is finalising the Coastal Zone Policy which will be the overarching policy document in matters related to the coastal zone.