Villagers on shaky ground


  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 30 Apr 2019

BUKIT MERTAJAM: Some 2,000 villagers in Kampung Mengkuang Titi and Kampung Mengkuang here are at the mercy of mother nature following deforestation and illegal logging on a hill near the Mengkuang Dam.

All that is left of the land, which is the size of two football fields, is barren soil and dried branches. The affected area is just 100m away from the dam’s spillway.

Without trees, the forest is unable to act as a giant sponge to “absorb” excess rain water during the current wet spell.

Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin, who raised the alarm, warned that the barren patches on the site could also contribute to water pollution and flooding, with houses facing the risk of being inundated with mud flow.

She said the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) tipped her off on the risks facing the two flood-prone villages, as the soil on the hill and a river nearby might not be able to contain rain water during a downpour.

“There used to be trees on the hill and a swamp. The trees have been chopped off and the swamp is now filled with sand.

“The river downstream was widened three times to channel water out from the dam’s spillway, but it is not meant to take the additional muddy waters from the hill.

“The situation is quite alarming,” she added in an interview.

It is learnt that the culprit, who is a landowner nearby, trespassed into the private land and cleared the area to create an access road to his property.

There was no silt trap or retention pond, only a tiny culvert which the authorities said was too small to function properly.

 Stripped bare: What used to be a jungle has now been reduced to an open sandy wasteland after the area was cleared to make way for logging on top of the hill near Mengkuang Dam in Sungai Lembu, Bukit Mertajam.
Stripped bare: What used to be a jungle has now been reduced to an open sandy wasteland after the area was cleared to make way for logging on top of the hill near Mengkuang Dam in Sungai Lembu, Bukit Mertajam.

“We lodged a report with the authorities on April 12 when we first received a report of the trespassing.

“Four days later, when we visited the site with the landowner, the hill was all barren,” said Dr Norlela.

She revealed that the owner of the 35ha plot submitted an application to build a 17-storey low-and-medium cost flat project there but she objected to it.

“It is too risky to have such a project because of the floodings in Kampung Mengkuang Titi, Kampung Mengkuang and houses behind Masjid Kampung Mengkuang.

“Floods have affected several schools and a teachers’ institute nearby. I propose a tourism project instead in the area,’’ she added.

The Mengkuang Dam is one of the largest water bodies in the peninsula. During the big storm that hit Penang in 2017, 23 landslide sites were reported near the area.

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