VILLAGERS and tourism industry players at Kampung Sahom, Gopeng, are crying foul over an alleged mining operation that is believed to be polluting Sungai Kepar.
Led by Kampung Sahom village chief Mohd Lot Abd Hamid, the group claimed that the mining operation had turned the once pristine and clear river murky.
The group led the media personnel to the site and showed the signs of pollution.
They said the mining operation was seen complete with a channel that sent effluent into the pond, where murky water from there would then flow into the river through a pipe.
“No sign has been put up to provide details of the mining operation. We don’t even know what are they mining there,” Mohd Lot said.
“The villagers were unaware of the operation as it was hidden behind an oil palm estate, until before Hari Raya,” he said, adding that the Sungai Kepar flows downstream to Sungai Rias, Sungai Dipang, Sungai Kampar, Sungai Kinta and to the sea.
“We have notified the state Department of Environment (DoE), Land and Mines Office and Minerals and Geo-science Department soon after we found out about it.
“Several DoE officers came and took some samples of the water, but we have not heard from them after that,” he added.
Mohd Lot said he was worried about river pollution, which would affect the ecosystem.
“We love our river. It is our asset,” he said, adding that he had always urged villagers not to throw rubbish into the river as marine life there had depleted.
“There is a water treatment plant near Kampar. People could be drinking polluted water if our river is dirty,” he added.
He said he received an anonymous call on Aug 3 that warned him against entering the mining area.
Resort managing director Shariff Ali Jabad Ali said the pollution was affecting the business.
“Kampung Sahom is known for its crystal-clear water, then this happened.
“Guests are turned off by the colour of the water.
“We suffer an average of 50% drop in the number of visitors on weekends.
“We used to have 200 people coming here and now we have fewer than 100,” he added.
Shariff hoped the mining operation could be stopped to prevent more damage to the river.
“Frankly, I don’t care what they do there because it’s said to be their land.
“I just don’t want them to pollute the river,” he said.
Another chalet owner, Mohd Khairi Abu Hassan, also lamented about dwindling business.
“It is hitting us hard. When visitors see the river, they just leave without wanting to stay another night.
“I have an activity whereby visitors can sit on floats and flow down the river. No one wants to take part now,” he added.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) field officer Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman said some villagers believed that the operation was to mine for gold.
“I don’t think it is for tin ore as it is too small-scaled.
“The ramp looks like a part of a treatment and filtering system.
“The villagers have heard that a road into the oil palm estate will be built.
“However, according to the authorities, no such permit was applied,” he said.
Meor Razak said they too could not determine what sort of operation was going on there.
“We believe the river is polluted due to the impurities and silt.
“Only the state DoE can be sure as they have taken water samples from the river.
“If it is polluted, the DoE then can take action under Section 24 and 25 of the Environmental Quality Act,” he added.
Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam (Peka) Perak chairman Sajeeda Muhammad hoped the state government could address the matter.
“We are really concerned about the river and not sure what sort of chemicals or pollutants are entering the river.
“For now, we hope for feedback from the Government. We will then see what else we can do,” she added.
When contacted, state Environment Committee chairman Prof Dr Abdul Aziz Bari said he would call up the respective agencies to get more details.