CAMERON HIGHLANDS: The developer of the project near Blue Valley here, embroiled in controversy after contractors reportedly used heavy machinery to clear and develop an 8ha piece of land, said yesterday that there was no other way to clear the site.
“We are farmers not developers and we are not destroying the environment but protecting it. To do our high-technology farming, the only way is to have the area flat,” said K.C. Kwang & Sons Sdn Bhd director Kwang Keh Chong, who is one of seven partners in the project, when met at the site.
He added that the more than RM1mil project involved the technique of hydrophonics and the water and nutrients needed to be distributed evenly. He said it was not possible if terracing was done.
Kwang, a farmer for 30 years, said he was just farming his own land and making it productive and it would be a waste to leave the land idle. He asked if that should be reason enough to jail him.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad has expressed sadness over “what happened in Cameron Highlands,” saying the area now looked more like a flatland than a highland. He has also called for stiffer penalties, including a jail sentence, against those who disregard environmental laws for profit.
When told that he was contravening regulations and guidelines on hill clearing, Kwang claimed that he had two months ago submitted the project plan to the Land Office which, he claimed, knew that the land would be levelled and had approved the permit.
Attempts by The Star to contact district officer Haron Abdol Kader, who heads the land office, were unsuccessful.
Kwang claimed that the land office had inspected the site before and had approved the methods employed.
The District Office had made a police report against the company on Saturday after they ignored two stop-work orders issued after they contravened rules like the use of heavy machinery and not covering slopes to prevent soil erosion.
“Work is work, how we prepare the land does not matter; it is the same as driving, whether it is a Proton Saga or a Mercedes, it makes no difference.
“It was the contractor who decided to bring in the heavy machinery as the work was too slow and it is better to speed up during the dry season otherwise more erosion will occur,” said Kwang.
He added that the work did not involve clearing new land but levelling land under an existing grant for 8ha owned by Syarikat Deng Seng.
Kwang also claimed that he had no idea of the stop-work orders, which were issued to the contractor and not to his company and he was not informed of it by the contractor.
The consultant for the project, Dutch Luuk Runia said besides the need for level land they had also to ensure that surface runoff and sedimentation were minimised by levelling the area and pushing the earth in the centre and making culverts for the water runoff.
Kwang said they did not have covers because they were waiting for the levelling to be completed and were to include the culverts and the covers later.
Runia said the only way for the farmers here to be competitive and prepare for Afta was to improve their yield and quality by improving on the techniques used.
Kwang said he had appealed to the authorities.
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