LETTER | Pahang state secretary Sallehuddin Ishak had failed to understand the real cause of water pollution in Cameron Highlands as evidenced by the accusations he made towards farmers at Sungai Ichat.
An enforcement operation by the Pahang state government began on Feb 25. In this operation, as many as 61 farms with the size of 55 hectares will be involved in this two-phase operation. Eleven farms are involved in the first phase which is expected to end in the middle of this month, whereas the second phase involving 50 farms will begin in the coming April.
Sallehuddin Ishak accused that the farms are located at the intake of the Sungai Ichat dam from which 70 percent of its water is channelled to residents in Cameron Highlands.
Sallehuddin’s accusation is inaccurate as the river that provides water to Kuala Terla Water Treatment Plant now is Sungai Terla and not Sungai Ichat.
We cannot deny that Sungai Ichat is badly polluted. Nevertheless, I have to remind Sallehuddin that the state Government should first tackle the cause of Sungai Terla’s pollution and not Sungai Ichat.
Based on a study conducted by researchers from UKM entitled “Impact of land development activities on water intake areas of Cameron Highlands”:
“ [...] kawasan tadahan air Sungai Terla terganggu akibat aktiviti pembukaan tanah bagi tujuan penempatan dan pertanian dan seterusnya memberi tekanan kepada keseimbangan sumber alam di sekitarnya terutamanya terhadap sumber air di kawasan punca pengambilan air Sungai Terla. Manakala kawasan punca pengambilan air yang lain (Sungai Tringkap, Ulong, Burung dan kawasan hulu Sungai Bertam) tidak mengalami sebarang bentuk pembangunan guna tanah dan keseimbangan sumber alam sekitar pada umumnya masih kekal dan terpelihara.”
It is shown that the Sungai Terla water catchment area is affected by land development activities for residential and farming purposes. It is, therefore, affecting the balance of nature particularly the source of water at Sungai Terla. Meanwhile, other areas of water sources (Sungai Tringkap, Ulong, Burung and Sungai Bertam upstream area) did not encounter any form of land development, and thus the balance of nature very much remains intact and is protected.
With that, I appeal to the Pahang government to stop the special operation towards farms near Sungai Ichat for some time and engage with the farmers through dialogues to reach a “win-win solution” or to give them a longer notice period so that the farmers can harvest before the farms are demolished.
The special operation involves 61 farms and hundreds of families who have been farming for decades. The state government should act in a more humane way and give the farmers a way out, such as relocating them.
The writer is Tanah Rata state assemblyperson.
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