The environmental and political challenges facing my father’s hometown in Dungun, Terengganu.

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This article aims to shed light on the two main challenges that have impacted our family’s beloved Kampung or Terengganu in general: environmental issues and political dynamics.

Growing up, my family and I had the privilege of visiting our Kampung, in Dungun, Terengganu, every year during the Eid celebration. These visits were always a source of great fulfillment for us, as we not only enjoyed the company of our extended family, but also cherished the breathtaking views of the breezy beach and the casuarina and coconut trees lining the coast. As a child or any other person, Terengganu would be considered a getaway state to rest and chill over the long holidays. However, in recent years, we have noticed a concerning decline in the quality of these experiences.

My Mom and Dad is Pantai Sura back in 2012. Unfortunately, the beach had already lost its casuarina coastal forest, which was replaced by a retention wall for beach restoration. Beach erosion and marine life is at risk. © Zarif Zahari

Terengganu, is currently facing several significant environmental challenges that have had a detrimental effect on the scenic beauty of the beaches and surrounding areas. One of the major issues is the infamous sand mining, which has resulted in the destruction of large portions of land, including the long-stretch of Casuarina Coastal Forests. This rampant sand mining activity, combined with the irresponsible disposal of plastic waste and open burning, has led to the accumulation of many different forms of pollution, severe dengue cases and a degradation of the natural environment.

Boulevard of casuarina and coconut trees stretch along the beach road. Casuarina trees are Terengganu’s natural first line of defense against strong winds, storms and floods. © Zarif Zahari

These practices not only harm the aesthetic appeal of the landscape but also pose serious health risks to the local population. Besides that, worsening climate change and the inevitable drought from El Niño have led to declining depths of our estuaries, which unfortunately really brought about serious impacts to locals, especially our traditional fisherman. Nearly 1,000 local fishermen lost their incomes due to shallow waters.

The shallow estuaries prohibit the local fisherman to catch fish and carry out related activities. Cases of flooding have also risen badly in several parts of Terengganu such Kuala Terengganu, Dungun, Kemaman, Besut and Setiu. Last year, 29 villages were affected with accessibility to over 8 main road cut off. The flood in Setiu alone impacted 3,995 villagers. Homes were destroyed, lives put at risk.

To address these challenges, it is essential for the people of Terengganu, to actively engage in the political process, attain knowledge about the environmental issues at hand, and utilise the available tools and resources to choose leaders who are truly committed to protecting the environment and combating corruption. By exercising our Islamic principles of rectifying good and preventing evil (‘Amar Maruf Nahi Mungkar), we can collectively work towards a brighter future for our beloved Kampung and the well-being of its residents.

Spontaneous back shot of my family witnessing the beach. © Zarif Zahari

The deterioration of the environment, and the lack of political commitment to address these challenges in Dungun, Terengganu, have had a profound impact on the once fulfilling experiences my family and I enjoyed during our visits when we balik kampung.

By recognising these issues, raising awareness, and actively participating in the political process, we can strive to restore the beauty of the beach, preserve the integrity of the Casuarina Coastal Forest, and support the local fishing community again. Only through concerted efforts and a mutual commitment to sustainable development can we hope to safeguard the natural and cultural heritage of Dungun, Terengganu, for generations to come.

Voting – It’s one of THE most significant things you can do as a citizen. This upcoming State Elections for six states, marks a real opportunity for citizen to give the environment a voice it truly deserves.

Use your power as a citizen to find out more and vote for a leader you think will not only show concern, but also act for environmental protection.

#UndiIklim #Vote4Climate #Ummah4Earth

Me (Zarif, second from right) in Terengganu sharing the message to #UndiIklim as rakyat Terengganu, while calling for strong environmental candidates in the state.

1. Fenomena air pasang besar, 44 kampung di Terengganu berisiko banjir
2. Air pasang besar: 15 lokasi di Dungun, Kemaman dilanda banjir kilat
3. Sand mining has damaged Terengganu estuary forest
4. Project aimed to help fisherfolk with shallow waters deepens pockets instead
5. Penularan demam denggi membimbangkan
6. Sampah bawaan air cemari kecantikan pantai Terengganu