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Friday August 17, 2012

Orang asli insist lake is dirty

PETALING JAYA: The orang asli community staying on the banks of Tasik Chini are still maintaining that the lake is highly polluted.

“The water is dirty. Our children who bathe in the lake and the nearby rivers are complaining that their skin is itchy.

“The fish in the lake, which we have been eating for years, now smell bad and even have worms in them,” said Kampung Gumum orang asli community leader Tok Batin Awang Alok at a press conference.

A group of five orang asli representatives travelled here yesterday for the press conference with Transparency International, which recently launched a national campaign to save Tasik Chini.

Tasik Chini is the second largest freshwater lake in the country.

The group expressed its disappointment over Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob’s statement that there was no cause for alarm over Tasik Chini.

“The logging and iron ore mining activities around Tasik Chini have affected the environment and the lives of our people.

“We can no longer venture into areas where we used to find roots to make traditional medicine as these areas have been closed for mining,” Tok Batin Awang Alok said.

He claimed that the logging activities had also affected their livelihood as they could not use the roots and rattan.

On Wednesday, Adnan said the state Health Department had also found the water quality to be normal after a three-month study while the muddy waters only occurred near the state Islamic and Malay Customs Council and Risda’s plantations near the lake.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Tasik Chini Research Centre head Prof Datuk Dr Mushrifah Idris, who was also at Adnan’s press conference, said it was unfair for the orang asli to claim they had been sidelined as all projects undertaken by the university and the East Coast Economic Region Development Council had always placed them as top priority.

Earlier, Asian Public Intellectuals fellow Dr Hezri Adnan said the rapid changes at the lake might cause the ecosystem to collapse by 2030.

Tok Batin Awang Alok urged the authorities to stop all mining and logging activities currently taking place on orang asli heritage land.

Besides affecting the well-being of local communities, the lake also risked losing its Unesco Biosphere Reserve status, said Transparency International secretary-general Josie Fernandez.

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