ALOR SETAR: Environmentalists are urging the state government to preserve Gunung Baling and Gunung Pulai and not to turn them into quarries.
Sahabat Alam Sik (SAS) advisor Mohd Sobri Ramlee said the proposal to conduct quarry activities at the mountains would not only jeopardise the natural environment in the areas but also will affect nearby residents as their source of income were from the mountains.
"The mountains were suitable for eco-tourism as it has magnificent views at its peak and has been the popular hiking spots for residents nearby and hikers from out of the state.
"The hiking activities are also a source of income to the villagers who become hiking guides to the tourists," he said in a statement to The Star.
He said based on the latest information, Baling district council has confirmed that the two mountains were located under Green Zone and under Baling District Local Plan (RTD) 2020, Gunung Baling was located under Tourism Zone.
He said Gunung Pulai is located along the same range of Gunung Baling so it should be considered under the Tourism Zone.
"The state Town and Country Planning Department should not convert the forest zone status of the mountains to quarry zone unless there is an alteration, abolition or amendment of the RTD 2020 under Subsection 16(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 (Act 172)," he said.
He said the distance between the villages and the foot of Gunung Pulai, which is about only 150m, should be taken into account too.
He questioned what method of mitigation was planned for those villagers who live 500m from the mountains.
The existence of many caves at the mountains such as Gua Tembus, Gua Kelambu, Gua Gelap Satu, Gua Layang-Layang, Gua Tok Sheikh, Gua Gelap Sungai, Gua Haji Puteh, Gua Ikan, Gua Kambing, Gua Badan, Gua Tembus Panjang, Gua Sirih and Gua Sirih Atas should also be considered and the proposal to conduct quarries activities would destroyed these natural caves.
He said according to the local villagers who claim the area was also home to ancient graves, it also had rich historical value and 17,000-year-old artefacts in the caves.
"Not only that, the Sungai Ketil river, which flows from Gunung Baling to Gunung Pulai, is the clean water source for the Sungai Limau Water Treatment Plant.
"Any quarrying near the river will contaminate it," he said, adding that there was one species of tree that grew only in the area, Sohmaea teres (Fabaceae), and had been verified by Forest Institute Research Malaysia (FRIM).
He said the existing quarry at Bukit Puyuh caused air and sound pollution that affected nearby residents who lived roughly 1km from it.
He said a total of 2,500 signatures from the villagers had been collected so far objecting to the quarries.
"We have also launched an online petition at https://chng.it/r8Ggwxjq and have collected 66,00 signatures," he said.
He added that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) had to be redone and should include all the additional information provided and a Social Impact Assessment should also be conducted as a whole to collect input from the nearby residents.
He added that the petition would be handed over to state government representatives during a peaceful protest scheduled to be held at Kampung Padang Che Mas on Saturday (July 2).