CAMERON HIGHLANDS, Nov 8 – The cause of the recent Cameron Highlands floods was man-made, and the blame has been placed on its Member of Parliament, Datuk Seri G. Palanivel. Regional Environmental Awareness of Cameron Highlands (Reach) president Ramakrishnan Ramasamy, in making this claim today, added that ironically Palanivel was also the Natural Resource and Environment Minister.
“The blame solely lies with him. “He is not proactive as the MP here and does nothing to resolve the issues we face,” Ramakrishnan said after taking reporters around the district to point out examples of illegal land clearing and their destructive effect on the environment. He said a recent statement by Palanivel that the situation in Ringlet was different from the flooding that occurred in the Bertam Valley due to land clearing, was incorrect.
“Today, I have taken the journalists to see for themselves how the water which is severely contaminated flows from Kampung Raja through tunnels to the Sultan Abu Bakar Hydroelectric Dam.” He said since the last major flooding in the district last year, there had been continued land clearing. “No action has been taken to hinder these activities. We are locals here and we see what is happening here every day.”
Ramakrishnan said the recent floods were worst than last year’s as they had affected more areas and claimed five lives. On Oct 23 last year, four people perished in floods after water was released from the Sultan Abu Bakar Hydroelectric Dam. “Last year was just a warning. True enough, it has gotten worse this time around. “What was worrying was the loss of lives, which has increased.
“We hope that the authorities will take drastic measures to ensure it does not get worse from here on.” Ramakrishnan listed three major reasons for water levels to rise so drastically and so quickly. “A lot of sediment and sludge fill the river beds because of heavy land clearing. “Then there is all that garbage thrown into the river.
“Mushrooming vegetable farms, with their plastic roofs, cause rainwater to flow directly into the river. Rainwater is not absorbed by the land as it naturally should. “Another contributor is the inconsistent weather patterns that are making the situation worse.” He said if the mass illegal land clearing did not stop in many areas, things would get worse.
“We might even see the day when the dam will finally break.” He said two-thirds of the dam were filled with sediments. The reservoir continues to receive heavy amounts of sediment from the river. “The RM40 million requested to dig out sediments and widen the river was coming from taxpayers, but are caused by irresponsible parties.” He forecast that Cameron Highlands would be out of clean water in 5 years if nothing changed.
“The authorities must take drastic measures against illegal land clearing. “The federal government must step in by bringing in the police, and army if needed, to stop them completely.” Ramakrishnan claimed that corruption was the main reason for the lack of enforcement here. “This goes all the way to the top in the state. These connections need to be investigated and revealed.
“When we ask some entrepreneurs about the land they had cleared, they boldly say that they had paid off people for approval. Even immigrants now are daring enough to pay off officials.” He said the district officer (DO) here had jurisdiction to override advice it may receive from the Department of Environment on land matters. “But DOs here rarely stay for more than a year.” He questioned how approvals for land were made and asked the authorities to investigate.