APPROVAL for a quarry operator to conduct soil investigation in two rivers near an Orang Asli village in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, has gone awry.
The soil test has polluted Sungai Tolong and Sungai Kelebar that are the main sources of water for the villagers.
Water sourced from streams in the hills continue to bring mud and sediment to their taps.
The pollution has even got the authorities perturbed.
Selangor Forestry Department director Datuk Puat Dahlan said the company was issued a permit to carry out a soil study only, but they did more than that.
This was discovered during a townhall meeting called by Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa) and attended by Selangor Forestry Department,
Gombak Land Office, Pertu-buhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam (Peka) and quarry operators.
“We will survey the damage that has been done in the area and issue compound notice based on our evaluation,” said Puat.
He said action would be taken under the National Forestry Act (APN) 1984.
The department had since lodged a police report against the company.
When contacted later, Puat said there would be an investigation to find out the details of the incident and what actually transpired.Revelation meeting
A representative from the quarry operator, who declined to be identified, said they wanted to move the machinery across a small river. The river supplies water to the villagers.
“We piled up soil in the river to create a crossing to move our equipment across to the other side.
“We did not expect it to disrupt water supply to the village,” he said.
Soon after that, the villagers began finding their tap water murky and had complained to Jakoa, the Federal Territory Forestry Department and eventually Peka.
On May 21, StarMetro reported about the river pollution faced by residents of Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Buloh.
Seven quarries have been operating in the area since early 1990s and are due to stop operations by 2025.
An eighth quarry is expected to start operation soon.
Central Selangor district forest officer Tengku Mohd Ridzuan Tengku Ibrahim said the department despatched a small team, including a ranger and a representative from the quarry operator, to inspect the situation at the affected area on May 14.
The Forestry Department then deployed temporary fixes to mitigate the damage.
“Geotextiles have been installed to collect sediments, and sandbags are placed along the affected portion of the river to prevent more soil from being dislodged into the river,” said Tengku Mohd Ridzuan.
He said a stop-work order was issued and two machines were confiscated.
“The party responsible has to begin restoration work immediately,” he added.
Peka representative Damien Divean was shocked by the action of the quarry operator.
“The water has to flow somewhere.
“What you have done will cause the water to seep into the soil and weaken its strength,” he said at the meeting.
Orang Asli Village Administra-tion Committee (MPPKO) of Sungai Buloh chairman Hanim Apeng said the meeting was needed to shed light on problems faced by the village.
“The polluted water supply is an urgent issue as it is during the Hari Raya period.
“The polluted water and the forest clearing activities have badly affected our daily lives,” she said.
Some villagers had to buy bottled water for their daily consumption, she added.
Hanim said the village had relied on a well that supplied underground water, but the well stopped operating 20 years ago due to a malfunctioning pump.
A representative from the quarry had offered to repair the pump as an alternative, she said.
Hanim also claimed that the blasting activities by the quarry operator caused cracks in the walls and floors of their homes.
Villager Surayati Wak said a large crack in the wall of her house left a gap of at least 4cm.
“We are lucky that there are no venomous animals entering through the cracks but we are still worried about the possibility,” she said.
Selangor Forestry Department deputy director Raffae Ahmad said an Environment Department guideline for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) stipulated that any quarry site must be located at least 500m away from a settlement.
“An EIA will include assessments on the sound and vibration impact to the surrounding,” he said.
He added that the operators would need to submit their progress report every three months.