BENTONG, Nov 16 — The Karak Highway, closed since a landslide on Wednesday evening, officially opened to traffic again yesterday afternoon as the debate over whether logging was responsible for the disaster heats up.
Environmental group, Persatuan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka), which has been leading the charge against logging in the area, yesterday claimed to have evidence of what caused the landslide.
“Activists from Peka had been there the day after the landslide occurred and we have photographs of tree stumps which indicated logging activities were indeed present in the area. It is a shame the reporters can’t see it for themselves,” said its president, Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil, after she and a group of journalist were refused entry into the disaster site by Forestry Department officers yesterday.
Apart from serving as a home to exquisite species of trees like chengal and meranti, Shariffa Sabrina said Lentang was also a primary forest which acts as a water catchment area.
“When the number of trees are drastically reduced by these logging activities, the collected water will overflow and trigger a debris flow like what happened last week,” she said.
Shariffa Sabrina urged other non-governmental organisations to not shy away from having their voices heard as it might help create bigger awareness.
“People need to know how bad the situation is right now. Land is being cleared as we speak and if this does not stop now, I don’t know what will we leave to our future generations,” she said.
“It saddens me upon seeing ravaged forests and land being stripped bare. There’s barely anything left to love anymore.”
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, who visited the site later yesterday, dismissed the allegation that logging was the cause of the landslide.
“People can say what they want but the Forestry Department’s record shows that it has been at least 50 years since the last logging activity here,” he said.
He said the National Disaster Management Agency was leading an investigation to identify the cause of the landslide.
The investigation will include the local authorities, the Fire and Rescue Department, the police and Malaysia Highway Authority.
“As of now, we cannot come to any conclusion but we suspect the landslide on the highway and the mud floods that affected the Forestry Department’s quarters were from different water sources. To confirm this we need to set up a team to go to the highest peak,” he said.
During a visit to the site on Thursday, Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob, did not deny that there were logging activities there but said it took place about 1.2km in the vicinity of the Lentang-Bukit Tinggi highway.
According to him, the logging activities did not directly contribute to the landslide.