Baling folk blame huge durian project

ALOR SETAR: Tahak Lahamat, 80, has a small durian orchard at the foot of the Gunung Inas mountain in Baling near here. But now, he hates durian cultivation.

He is among many villagers in Baling who are blaming a mammoth 1,200ha durian plantation on top of the mountain for the devastating flood that destroyed their homes, cars and pretty much everything they owned on Monday.

Even the pristine Lata Celak waterfalls, a popular tourist spot, has been ravaged by the flood, with strong currents now churning murky waters.

The villagers, including Tahak, had called for the scrapping of the durian plantation project since it was first planned in 2012. The project was halted in 2020 with tree replanting done in the area.

Tahak said he was at the foot of the mountain when he heard a loud sound from up high.

“It was about 4.30pm and the rain had just stopped. I looked up and saw the water surge coming from the top of the hill.”

Tahak was sad that this had to happen despite the warnings given earlier by the villagers.

Villager Kuin Mat Noh, 60, claimed the clearing of the hills for the Musang King Project was the source of all their problems this year.

“Before, even when there was heavy rain, the river water was never murky.

“The water was always clear and clean,” he said.

Hamdi Hashim, 50, said villagers had warned that the project would do more harm than good.

“We knew this tragedy would happen,” he said, adding that the state government and other relevant authorities must act fast before another such tragedy occurs.

Siti Aisyah Misnan, 34, who saw her house in Lata Celak washed away by the floodwater, said this was the first time in her five years there that such a thing had happened.

“I am shocked. My house has been destroyed but luckily nothing happened to my family.”

Siti said she was at a grocery store at about 5pm when her 16-year-old daughter called her about the floods. She rushed home only to see that her house had been washed away.

Her daughter was saved by neighbours.

“My house was destroyed in the blink of an eye,” said Siti who lived there with her husband and her three children aged nine to 17.

Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, meanwhile, said the deluge could not be totally blamed on the plantation project.

He said a survey by villagers found that a small water catchment pond which supplied water to villagers of Kampung Charok Kapas and Kampung Charok Rotan Mas had overflowed.

He said other similar water catchment ponds could have also overflowed, causing the water surge.

The three-hour downpour that began at 2pm on Monday also caused the waters of Sungai Kupang to overflow into residential areas.

At least three people, including a pregnant woman, died and hundreds of others were displaced in what was said to be the worst floods to hit the district.

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