THE villagers of Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Buloh dread whenever it rains.
Since last month, the village, which relies on the rivers that flow from the nearby hills for drinking water, has been receiving murky water filled with sediments from their pipes after a downpour.
The village houses 230 people and 64 families and is located at the foot of Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve.
Orang Asli Village Administration Committee (MPPKO) of Sungai Buloh chairman Hanim Apeng said seven quarries had been operating near the forest reserve since the early 1990s. Hanim claimed an eighth quarry was approved for operation early this year.
“We rely on the water from the streams in the hills for drinking. Now our drinking water looks like Milo each time it rains. We are worried that the activities of the quarries in the surrounding area might have something to do with the murky waters coming out of our taps,” she said, adding that the village also relies on clean water supplied by the Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa).
A team of four villagers from the village who were despatched to the rivers reported that sediments were visible in two rivers, namely Sungai Kelebar and Sungai Tolong.
Villager Norlizan Amli who headed the team said they also visited the sites of the quarrying activity.
They found that trees in the area have been cut down, most likely to begin drilling works.
Norlizan said the quarry operators would normally clear trees to create a path to bring in machineries before drilling work can be carried out.
“They can drill down as deep as 30m before they locate sufficient reserve of rocks to be quarried,” he said.
Norlizan said the water supplied to his home now feels slimy and oily.
“When the roots of trees are pruned, the tree sap will be dislodged by rainwater into the nearby water catchment area which is the river. The sap will then flow into our pipes and that is why our water feels slimy,” he added.
According to Norlizan, water from the rivers is collected in a small dam about 10 sq ft before being diverted to the homes in the village.
Following up on the deteriorating quality of the water, Hanim said she contacted the Peninsular Forestry Department who then referred her to the Selangor Forestry Department.
She was informed that the quarries had received approval from the state government to operate at the site.
Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam (Peka) president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil, who visited the village recently, advised Hanim to write an official complaint to Selangor Mentri Besar Amirudin Shari and relevant government departments, adding that she was perplexed that quarries are allowed to operate within the confines of a forest reserve.
“Selangor is expected to experience a critical water issue. It’s crucial that we protect the cleanliness of our rivers to ensure we that we have adequate water supply,” she said.
“We are not against development but it must be sustainable and sensitive to the environment,” she added.
Hanim said an officer from the forestry department came to visit the village on May 15 to inform them that a stop-work order has been issued.
It is not clear though which among the eight quarries had been issued the order.
A representative from one of the local quarries, who was also present during the visit, offered to install water filters inside the dam.
It is learnt that representatives from the company had planned to visit the village to check out the water tank accompanied by a few villagers.
However, Hanim said she was later informed that the plan was called off due to unforeseen circumstances.
Hanim also expressed her concerns about the blasting sound which could be heard reverberating through the village during weekdays, especially in the evening.
“I heard three blast sounds coming from the quarrying sites in the hills. Our houses shook and we could feel a minor tremor in the floors and walls,” she added.
StarMetro visited one of the quarries and spoke with a personnel who declined to be identified.
“Approval from the district police after recommendation from the Mineral and Geoscience Department is required once every month before we can carry out blasting work. We are only allowed to carry out blasting a maximum of three times a day from noon to 4pm from Monday to Thursday,” he said.
“We must obtain a permit before we are allowed to transport explosive substances for our work at the site,” he added.
Central Selangor District Forest officer Tengku Mohd Ridzuan Tengku Ibrahim, when contacted, said the matter was brought to their attention by the villagers and is being investigated.
He said a meeting was held on May 14 with the villagers to find an amicable solution to the issue.
“We are waiting for reports from the Forestry Department and other relevant government departments and agencies before we decide on the next course of action,” he said.
Hanim expressed hope that the surrounding land housing the orang asli village can be gazetted as a green lung soon.
She said the proposal had been forwarded to Jakoa but they have not received any reply.
“I have spoken to a representative from the Selangor Forestry Department regarding this matter before. I was informed that we need to replace the land that would be gazetted to us with another piece of land,” she said.
“I don’t see why we have to do that. This is our land since the time of our ancestors. We only want what is rightfully ours,” she added.
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