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THE residents of Pulau Tioman, off Rompin, Pahang, staged a protest against the construction of a new airport on the island, at Kampung Genting on Oct 21.The village head claimed that the new airport would be built on reclaimed land near Kampung Genting.“I urge the government to reconsider this plan. We, the people of Tioman, do not feel that this new project will benefit us,” he said, adding that the villagers were in the dark about the project.

“Why is there no transparency in communicating information about this airport to us? The authorities have not sought our feedback.”Pulau Tioman has an airport in the main village, Kampung Tekek, but it has a short landing strip, allowing only smaller planes to land. Many of the villagers feel that it would be better to upgrade the current airport and use suitable airplanes to operate flights into the island.They suggested allowing more flights into the island from other airports (besides Subang Airport) such as from Kuantan, Senai and Singapore.They also suggested improving ferry services in Mersing and Tanjung Gemok jetty.

Pulau Tioman is a well-known tourist destination. Tourist arrivals have been steadily increasing since 2008.However, the island does not have adequate infrastructure and facilities to support the growing number of tourists. It would not be able to cope with the influx of tourists that the construction of a new airport would bring.

A new airport is not what the island needs. It will not benefit the local community or the environment.I have been living on the island for the past five years. The focus should be on improving and upgrading infrastructure, as well as the drainage system, rubbish disposal method, waste treatment and electricity supply.

 Pulau Tioman is hit by frequent water shortages in addition to problems due to improper wastewater treatment facilities. The incinerator on the island is not able to accommodate the large amount of trash generated or process certain waste such as electrical and electronic waste.

 

The building of a new airport not only removes the focus of what really needs fixing on the island, but it also leaves a negative impact on the local community and environment.

The main attraction of the island is its beautiful coral reefs, which will face irreversible damage if the construction is carried out. It can also cause a change in currents and sand movements, which may lead to beach erosion.

 

The locals are concerned that this new airport may turn Pulau Tioman into another Boracay Island (the Philippines) or Maya Bay (Thailand), which had to be closed due to severe environmental damage brought about by uncontrolled tourism expansion.

 

While the locals do not oppose development on the island, they feel that this airport project would impact Pulau Tioman negatively. More research and an environmental assessment of the island must be done before such projects are approved.

The needs and views of the locals should be considered.

Pulau Tioman is a marine protected area and it should remain pristine and protected.

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