We don’t give our forests a hoot, says NGO

PETALING JAYA: The fact that Malaysia is in the top 10 countries in the world with the most number of landslides shows that its natural forests are not being “cared for”, according to an NGO.

Peka president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said rampant deforestation and cutting of hills was the reason for many landslides in the country.

She said the body had been calling for a halt to logging for many years “for our forests to heal”.

“But there is rampant logging even in the middle of the rainy season.

“We should be embarrassed.

“Landslides mean that we are not taking care of our heritage while Malaysia has one of the oldest and most pristine rainforests,” she said.

The Star reported yesterday that data from the US National Aero­nau­tics Space Administration (Nasa) showed that Malaysia had 171 landslides between 2007 and March 2016, making it the 10th highest country in terms of frequency of landslides.

The report stated that most landslides in Malaysia occurred between October and January which coincides with months with the highest rainfall.

“We have to tell the government to amend the law,” said Shariffa Sabrina, adding that the fact that land and forest matters came under the states was often used as a “safe answer”.

She said the federal government had the power to stop any such deforestation or hill-cutting which was done “by using loopholes in the law”.

Pointing to Penang as an example of over-development, Shariffa Sabri­na said Peka had written many times to the state government urging it to slow down or stop the cutting of the hills.

“It’s very disappointing. This is such a small country and we are in the top 10 ranking.

“Let’s not wait for fatalities to happen before we take action,” she added.

In George Town, Penang Works Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said while landslides could be man-made disasters, it could be avoided.

“For example, a reinforced slope is safer than a natural one that can erode due to natural causes. But we can have slope protection done, like soil-nailing, which is actually more stable.

“However, drawing from the Tanjung Bungah and Bukit Kukus cases, often the problem lies in negligence and standard of construction,” he added.

Penang Citizens Awareness Chant Group adviser Yan Lee said the group supported a call for nationwide guidelines and an agency created at federal-level to oversee hillslope safety.

landslide , slopes , peka , zairil khir johari