Logging near Gerik, Perak, has harmed the livelihoods of the orang asli

Several number of logs were stacked near a logging site near the Pos Kemar indigenous settlement in Gerik, Perak.

Several number of logs were stacked near a logging site near the Pos Kemar indigenous settlement in Gerik, Perak.

IPOH: A temporary stop-work order has been issued on logging near the Pos Kemar orang asli (indigenous) settlement at Gerik, northern Perak, pending a report on the pollution of a river there.

It was reported Tuesday (July 24) that a group of orang asli from the Pos Kemar orang asli settlement in Perak wants the state government to stop logging in their jungle area.

They said heavy logging, which was halted for seven months from last December after protests, had resumed and caused Sungai Jumheng to become shallower and murkier.

This had affected the orang asli's drinking water supply and livelihoods, which depend on forest products.

They also claimed that the logging, which had been going on since 2012, had destroyed many trees and also their ancestors' graves.

Perak Forestry Department director Datuk Mohamed Zin Yusop said that an immediate site visit has been arranged to identify the source of silting in the river.

"The logging activities are halted while the department finds out what caused the river water to be murky," he said when contacted.

Orang asli rely on plants and trees in the jungle for medicine, food, building material and products to sell, such as rattan and honey.

On June 9 last year, The Star highlighted the orang asli's plight and their threat of a blockade if the logging was not halted.

Mohamed Zin noted that the logging was part of a concession licensed to a company in 2008/2009 for 1,900ha of government land in Mukim Temenggor, Hulu Perak, which was near the Pos Kemar indigenous settlement.

"The development was meant for a rubber plantation. The company's work was temporarily suspended following a protest from the orang asli community before this.

"However, the work resumed recently as the company's license was renewed until August 15, 2018," he said.

He noted that a meeting that was held on July 18 with the Perak Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa), which was chaired by its director, had no issue for the logging to resume.

"However, the department has decided that logging will stop for now, until we gather more information from our site visit," he added.

When contacted, Barisan Nasional Temenggor state assemblyman Salbiah Mohamed said that if the land clearing was meant for rubber replanting, that would benefit the villagers economically in the future, then it should be allowed to go on.

"In that case, the company must follow the rules while conducting logging in the jungle.

"By right, there are buffer zones (where logger have to stay away from) when it involves a river," she said, adding that logging should be scrapped if it was just another commercial project to make money.

"If logging does not benefit the villagers who live nearby, then I don't think it is proper, especially when the state government stresses on protecting nature sustainably," she said.

Salbiah also noted that she would continue to voice out the need of clean water supply at the Pos Kemar indigenous settlement, a large community with some 15 villages and 5,000 settlers.

"I will still voice out like I used to do when we (Barisan Nasional) was the state government before this," she added.