Monday, August 24, 2009

More development for Kuala Baram planned

Miri Daily News on 21st August 2009 published a new revelation about further plans to develop Kuala Baram as a massive effort to counter heavy sedimentation at the mouth of Batang Baram, the effects of which have been seen as the main cause for dwindling cargo throughput to the new Baram Port.

The development was initially mentioned by Lee Kim Shin in an unrelated article elsewhere in another publication, this is the first time however that initial detailed plan of such a major undertaking came to light for the general public.

Kuala Baram before.

What Kuala Baram would be after the development.

In one concerted development phase, we will lose another of our most accessible stopping points for waders in Northern Sarawak, the first being the old Sungai Miri estuary, presently the Miri Marina.

The Kuala Baram section of the beach including Batang Baram estuary has always been a stopping point for many migrating waders over the years and perhaps also home to the resident and not very well studied Malaysian Plover. Oriental Darter which is now extinct in West Malaysia has made many appearances at Kampung Masjid and elsewhere in and around Kuala Baram. The fact that the area is important for these birds are undeniable.

A long list of waders and waterbirds have been listed from Kuala Baram by MNS Miri since 1998, the start of our birdwatching group. We've seen the loss of Grey Heron this year though Purple Heron are still sighted now and again in a few spots. Chinese Egret, Intermediate Egret, Great Egret, and Little Egret are frequent sightings in the area. We've recorded sightings of a healthy population of breeding Wandering Whistling Duck in the peatswamps nearby as well as several breeding pairs of Oriental Pratincole.

We have only started to monitor Pulau Bawai, first of which was carried out 14th February 2009. During our overnite outing on the island, we clocked several species of raptors Perregrine Falcon, White-bellied Sea Eagle as well as waders Sanderlings, Red-necked Stint, Long-toed Stint, Lesser Sandplover, Greater Sandplover, Grey Plover, Kentish Plover including several pairs of the elusive Malaysian Plover.

MNS Miri together with Wetlands International conducted an Asian Wetland Census workshop fieldwork on Bawai early March of the same year which yield 200+ mixed flock of different plovers.

Just this recent season we've sighted Common Redshanks, Common Greenshanks, Pacific Golden Plover, Whimbrel and from our latest sighting, Eurasian Curlew, the largest migrating wader. It's a matter of time before more waders and waterbirds get on the list with more people going birdwatching.

Changes in the present natural structure of the coast will impact the lay of the mudflats and sediment deposition in the area. On top of this, construction activities at the start of the project will have already some contribution to the number of waders and waterbirds that stop by this area.

With half of Kuala Baram undergoing rapid reconversions these recent months, further development will spell more uncertain times for our feathered friends, residents and migrants alike.

Will Kuala Baram be another example of us losing what we never knew we had? Perhaps it's then immaterial for those who have absolutely no inkling of what's lost, however that then for those who do?

Checkout the list of birds from our AWC, several locations were from the Kuala Baram area:
MNS Miri's AWC 2009

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