Wednesday October 10, 2012
Devamany: Land-clearing rampant in Camerons
KUANTAN: Illegal land-clearing within Cameron Highlands has reached an intolerable level, Datuk S.K. Devamany said.
“Yes, it is true. Illegal land-clearing activities are happening quite rampantly in the highlands. It has reached an intolerable level. We need a stricter enforcement and a stronger legislative framework to address the issue,” said Devamany, who is also the Cameron Highlands MP and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department.
He said the Land Office should initiate creative methods to nab the culprits instead of just seizing the heavy machinery without making any arrests.
He said in most cases the culprits got off with just a fine, resulting in them getting bolder in repeating such activities openly.
“Enforcement has to be beefed up. There should be officers working during weekends to keep tabs on the situation.
“Without resolute efforts, more land will be lost and this will reflect badly on the state government,” he said.
When asked whether the state government was issuing too many Temporary Occupation Licences (TOLs) to open up agriculture farms, Devamany said the matter should be investigated.
It is learnt under the guidelines for TOL, only 0.8ha of land is allotted and no usage of heavy machinery is allowed for land- clearing.
But due to lack of enforcement, permit holders use such equipment to flatten more that the allotted land plot.
There have been claims that in some cases up to 20.2ha were being cleared illegally.
In addition to this, clearing work is supposed to be done during weekdays but the lack of checks have resulted in such activities being carried out on weekends as well and mostly at night.
Regional Environmental Association of Cameron Highlands (Reach) president R. Ramakrishnan said while the state government was responsible for issuing TOLs, the district office was in charge of issuing permits for land-clearing.
“The district office must get technical reviews from agencies, such as the Department of Environment and Drainage and Irrigation Department.
“We believe that this process is not followed,” he said, adding that all TOL holders should be made known to the public to ensure transparency and accountability.