Pause special operation on Sungai Ichat farmers, says Tanah Rata assemblyman

KUANTAN: Tanah Rata assemblyman Chiong Yoke Kong is appealing to the state government to temporarily halt its special operation against farms near Sungai Ichat in Cameron Highlands.

He said the Pahang government should hold dialogues to engage with the farmers to find a win-win solution or give them a longer notice period so they could harvest before their farms were demolished

"The special operation involves 61 farms and hundreds of families who have been farming for decades. The state government should act in a more humane way and give the farmers a way out, such as relocating them," he said in a statement Tuesday (March 12).

The state government is currently conducting an operation to demolish illegal farms over a 121ha area in Cameron Highlands.

Pahang state secretary Datuk Seri Dr Sallehuddin Ishak has said the first phase of the operation involving 11 farms was expected to end in mid-March, while the second phase scheduled for April would involve 50 farms.

He said these illegal farming areas were located right in front of the intake point of the Sungai Ichat Dam that supplied 70% of the clean water for the Cameron Highlands area.

Chiong disputed Dr Sallehuddin's assertion, saying that it was inaccurate as the river that provided water to the Kuala Terla water treatment plant now was Sungai Terla and not Sungai Ichat.

He cited a study by researchers from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia titled "Impacts of Land Development Activities on Water Intake Areas of Cameron Highlands", which stated that the Sungai Terla water catchment area had been disturbed by settlement and agricultural activities.

"It is shown that the Sungai Terla water catchment area is affected by land development activities for residential and farming purposes. It is therefore affecting the balance of nature, particularly towards the source of water at Sungai Terla.

"Meanwhile, other areas of water sources (Sungai Tringkap, Ulong, Burung and Sungai Bertam upstream area) did not encounter any form of land development and thus the balance of nature very much remains intact and is protected.

"We cannot deny that Sungai Ichat is badly polluted. Nevertheless, I have to remind Dr Sallehuddin that the state government should firstly tackle the cause of Sungai Terla's pollution and not Sungai Ichat," said Chiong on Tuesday (March 12).