Wednesday October 10, 2012
EIA report needed for slope clearing, says REACH
By ISABELLE LAI
CAMERON HIGHLANDS: The Regional Environmental Association Cameron Highlands (REACH) wants a detailed environmental impact assessment (EIA) report done before any steep slope is cleared for agriculture.
Its president R. Ramakrishnan said many of the slopes cleared in the past six months were classified as class three and four, which means that they are above 30 degrees and posed a high risk of soil erosion and landslides.
He said that according to Department of Agriculture statistics, there was no more suitable land for agriculture, which should be located below 25 degrees.
“What is available now is all more than 25 degrees. Continuing such land clearing will be gambling with our lives,” he said.
He stressed the need for a thorough study to see whether agriculture could be done on such steep slopes, as it was clear that “the damage done to the environment was too great”.
Describing the land clearing over the past six months as “drastic and shocking”, he said the high rate of silting also had a big impact on the Sultan Abu Bakar Dam in the area.
He said the loose soil from the land clearing ended up being washed into the dam waters, causing huge damage to the turbines.
“The steeper the slope, the higher the silting. This can result in the shutting down of the dam.
“De-silting the dam costs a huge amount of money,” he warned.
Ramakrishnan said the current silting rate in Cameron Highlands was 200 tonnes per ha per year, according to a study conducted by the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi).
He said that even if a particular piece of land had a legitimate permit, the clearing size would be confined to an area not exceeding 0.8ha as stipulated in the temporary operating licence.
“But in reality, the areas being cleared are sometimes 10 or 20 times the size that is legally permitted, as everyone going there can see for themselves,” he said, adding that he had sent a letter on Aug 13 to Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission on the land clearing.
He also said that illegal land clearing was being carried out in Mensun Valley, Brinchang and Kampung Taman Sedia.
The Star reported yesterday that the District Office conducted a raid last weekend and seized heavy machinery, including backhoes and excavators, in response to locals' complaints of rampant land clearing.
Tanah Rata assemblyman Datuk Ho Yip Kap had expressed concern that the land clearing could cause rivers to silt up, resulting in landslides during the rainy season.