High-risk slopes in Cameron Highlands being cleared for development again, claim residents

An agriculture project is being developed in Bertam Valley, Cameron Highlands.

IPOH: Cameron Highland residents are sounding the alarm after several high-risk forested areas have been cleared for development.

Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (REACH) president A. Dilip Martin said these areas were classified as Class Three and Four hills, which were deemed to be risky areas for any development.

Dilip Martin said the deforestation at the highlands for agriculture, development and eco-tourism projects was very concerning and in a critical state.

"REACH have obtained videos and photos showing slopes exceeding 45° and Class Three and Four hills being cut for agricultural purposes.

(Class Three is for slopes between 25° and 35° while slopes with angles greater than 35° are classified as Class Four, which poses the highest risk.)

"The deforestation for agricultural purposes in Lembah Bertam, which has received environmental impact assessment (EIA) approval, does not adhere to the approval conditions, and the consultants have washed their hands of the matter," he told The Star.

"Why is EIA approval necessary if the conditions for its approval are not followed?

"Planning permission was obtained from the Cameron Highlands District Council, but enforcement was not carried out, causing displaced soil to encroach on others' farms," he added.

He also said several measures should have been in place before the project could commence, but they were not implemented.

"It is understood that silt traps are only in the process of being built, whereas they should have been constructed before the project began.

"Insufficient drainage systems have led to water overflowing into the lower farms, and hydroseeding works on exposed slopes have also not been done," he said.

"This failure in enforcement allows developers to neglect the EIA approval conditions," he added.

Dilip Martin said an eco-tourism project in Tringkap also poses a danger to the residents at the town.

"Residents are mostly worried about the earthworks carried out by the developer because their houses are directly below the approved hill," he said.

"The question is, how did this project get EIA approval when the slope exceeds 45° and it is in Class Three and Four?

"According to the Cameron Highlands Local District Plan 2030 document, this area is classified as Environmental Sensitive Area Rank One," he added.

Dilip Martin said REACH requested the Pahang Environment Department to review all EIA approvals granted to projects at the highlands.

"We also request early action to be taken to prevent loss of life and regret due to natural disasters," he added.

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