KUANTAN: For the sake of protecting the environment, the Pahang government is unable to entertain the Cameron Highlands farmers' request to reconsider enforcement action on their farms.
Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail said the state government must be firm to protect the environment from further pollution and to ensure there was continued treated water supply for the needs of 70% of Cameron Highlands residents.
Countering the farmers' assertion that the water source only came from Sungai Terla, Wan Rosdy said it was true that Sungai Ichat and Sungai Terla were two different rivers but they were still within the Terla water catchment area.
"Both rivers should contribute to the intake point for the Kuala Terla water treatment plant but due to Sungai Ichat being badly polluted and further worsened by the illegal farming at its buffer zone, the only source now is from Sungai Terla.
"However, the raw water supply from Sungai Terla is also decreasing, which will become critical in the future," he said.
Wan Rosdy added that before raw water from Sungai Ichat could be safely used, the river must first be rehabilitated and this would take time.
Tanah Rata assemblyman Chiong Yoke Kong had repeatedly asked the state government to clarify its motive for demolishing farms at Sungai Ichat in Cameron Highlands.
Chiong questioned the state government for not tackling the source of water pollution at Sungai Terla's upstream first since the river now provided water to the Kuala Terla water treatment plant.
He also appealed to the state government to pause its special operation against farms to find a win-win solution instead.
Since Feb 25, the state government had been carrying out an operation to demolish illegal farms over a 121ha area in Cameron Highlands.
Wan Rosdy revealed that only 50 temporary occupation licences (TOL) had been issued but the reality was there were more than one operator working on any lot for each of the TOL.
"The perception is that they were given TOL for 45 consecutive years before it was suddenly halted in 2017. But the truth is the TOL is only valid for a year and must be renewed annually.
"Only in 2017, the TOL are no longer issued due to a breach of conditions, among which is the prohibition on building permanent structures like worker housing. Furthermore, these farms are located at a water catchment area which when affected, will impact the clean water supply," he said.
Wan Rosdy said the state government had decided to hand over issues concerning agricultural land to the State Secretary Incorporated.
Through that, he said the Agriculture Department, for example, would be given the responsibility to coordinate and ensure effective and safe farming practices in accordance with MyGAP (Malaysia Good Agriculture Practice) were adhered by farmers in the highlands.