ONCE it was a pristine site for white-water rafting enthusiasts to enjoy the clean and superb lush green forest view at Kampung Geruntum in Gopeng.
Now, charred ground and uprooted trees greet tourists at the area where a well-known white-water rafting site was located, riling up nature lovers and locals there.
A check by The Star there found that a vast area of the hilly slope has been “disfigured”, with dried up shrubs and dead plants, and with only a scant number of trees still rooted to the ground.
A local, Mat (not his real name), claimed that the land was being cleared “illegally” by a developer who wanted to build a resort there.
“We understood that the hilly slope is part of reserve land and government property.
“To be able to clear the land means the developer has strong connections with the government,” said the 31-year-old odd-job worker.
“Some of the folk here have lodged reports with the Forestry Department. Their officers came to look at the area but no further action was taken,” he said.
Mat said the locals were unhappy with the current condition of the forest land there.
“Even if the developer has somehow bought the piece of land, I feel it is wrong to have a resort built there.
“It is a hilly terrain and construction works could cause unwanted incidents like soil erosion or worse, a landslide,” he said.
Mat stressed that should the development take place, it would impact the villagers staying in the area.
“Development could cause the river to be polluted. Many villagers in the area rely on the river as their water source for daily usage.
“Visitors also will have a picnic and swim in the same river not far from the site,” he said.
“The pollution could cause illnesses,” he added.
Mat also pointed out that there were some structures that were built too close to the river in the area.
“I believe there are regulations that prohibit structures to be built within a specific distance from the river.
“There is also a warning post that was erected on a rock along the river,” he said.
“While the intention is good, I feel that it is not right for someone to simply build things at the river on a whim,” he added.
Meanwhile, a tourist, who only wanted to be known as Faridah, said there were two elephant statues built near a surau not far from the river in the same area.
“The statues could create a misunderstanding amongst the Muslim community as Islam prohibits statues at its premises, be it at home or commercial buildings.
“I think the owner’s intention is to beautify the area but I feel the statues are disturbing and hideous,” she said.
“People coming out here want to see the beauty of nature and not these irrelevant structures,” she added.
As for the disfigured hillside, Faridah, in her late 20s, said she does not have any inkling on what had happened there.
“It seems like a forest fire but it could also be land being cleared.
“I just hope the tourism industry here will not be affected,” she said.
“It will be a waste and a blow to the state if people feel the lush forest surroundings is not properly looked after and decide not to return here,” she added.
When contacted, state Drainage and Irrigation Department director Datuk Abdul Razak Dahalan said certain structures were allowed to be built near rivers but with certain conditions.
He stressed that structures that would hinder access to rivers were not allowed.
“Any development plan near a river must also be submitted to the department, be it on state or private land,” he said.
On the structures near the river at Kampung Geruntum, Abdul Razak said the department has not received any complaints.
“When we receive any complaints, we will normally investigate it.
“If the structures are found to be a hindrance to our work, we will have these removed,” he said.
He added that the size of buffer zone areas on reserve land near rivers varies, depending on the width of the river.
“The wider the river, the wider the reserved land,” he said.
State Forestry Department director Datuk Roslan Ariffin could not be reached for comments.