Thank you YMM Penampang for giving me this opportunity to visit such an interior district. It was my first time going to Pitas, which takes around 2 hours by car. Started our journey around 8.30am, had a few pit stops along the way cause most of them wanted to go to the loo.
A little something about Pitas:
Remember how I mentioned before that Kudat is one of the doggy's ear? Well Pitas is the other not-very-famous doggy ear. Around 10 years ago, a timber company came and developed the lands and by develop I mean deforestation. And then 2-3 years ago, the government has approved on a aquaculture project which includes clearing around 400 hectares of land.
More information can be found here:
Sedia to develop 1,000 acres in Pitas for shrimp farming http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news.cfm?NewsID=88107
Pitas aquaculture park an eco-hazard, say villagers http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2014/03/02/Pitas-aquaculture-park-an-ecohazard-say-villagers/
So as I mentioned previously from KK to Pitas it took around 2 hours, but to enter this village from Pitas it takes another 30 minutes through a stretch of gravel road.
Upon arrival, the locals gave us a short briefing and then we had lunch, all are local food cooked my locals. These locals are actually considered an endangered race. They're known as Tombinau who are proud guardians of the mangrove forest. They survived for centuries from farming and also living off the mangrove forest.
Then we head towards the mangrove forest. Distance between the food place and mangrove is about 1km.
And this is how we move in the mangrove forest, motorboats and self-made boats. DIY much? But in all seriousness, they did make some of their boats.
Then we head towards this piece of land owned by one of the locals to see the damage done to the mangrove forest.
It was truly a depressing sight to see the forest slowly dying due to the poison, and taking most of the creatures inhabiting in it along :(
Truth is that, we have learnt since young the importance of mangrove forest, how they can prevent Tsunami, keep the ecosystem balance and etc... but all we do in school is just reading, you can understand but you cannot feel it, but that very day when I see the destruction of it, I could feel it's life force, slowly slipping away. One of the girls told me that despite living so close to the river, they have never once experience flooding, I assumed this is due to the forest keeping the water at bay but with the rate it's going, I wouldn't be surprise that a year or two from now to hear that this place started flooding during rainy season. Besides, everything is inter-related, this area may be a river but it eventually flows out into the sea, the sea which is filled with corals and sea creatures (Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is just a few miles away) and what happen to those when this part is destroyed?
Perhaps even with the development, we too need to find ways to sustain the environment and also not neglect the livelihoods of others. And remember that it is easy to destroy the environment but it takes years and years of effort to rebuild them.
We did manage to see a few proboscis monkey from afar, and the villagers told us that most of the Proboscis migrated ever since the development started.
Current dilemma of said villagers:
They're running out of resources. As mentioned previously they were farmers and fishermen (living off mangrove) and now that they barely have any mangrove left due to the recent aquaculture development, it's hard to sustain their living. In Sabah, Pitas is the district with the second highest poverty rate (Sources: Sabah Priority Issues: Setting the Course for Change at http://www.academia.edu/713426/Sabah_Priority_Issues_Setting_the_Course_for_Change ) but the difference between then and now is that, before this even though these people under the formula for calculating poverty is considered to be in that state, they did not feel poor as they have an abundant of resources so they were never hungry BUT now with the lack of land due to logging and no more mangrove to depend on, their survival is hanging by a very thin thread and not to mention that their home can be taken away from them anytime.
And these are their words, not mine. It was very heartbreaking to hear their story.
Okay so the thing is, most of the villagers I met are of those that showed this kind of situation to me, and I did not meet any of the villagers who benefited from the development. So what I've written and showed here is just LITERALLY what I saw that day. I guess that's all from me. A little something for you to contemplate on as you go on with your life.