Address illegal land clearing, locals tell Penang govt

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https://hakam.org.my/wp/2015/11/25/address-illegal-land-clearing-locals-tell-penang-govt/
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Source: The Star Online

GEORGE TOWN, Nov 25 — Residents of Teluk Bahang and Sungai Ara hope the state government would take stern action against those who have destroyed Penang’s greenery.

Farmers in Teluk Bahang alleged that the illegal land clearing activities in Bukit Laksamana had caused mudslides and landslides, which frequently blocked the only access way to their farms.

Kong Swee Loke, 68, said the gravel path would be blocked with broken branches and excess soil from the hill top.

“We have been here for more than two decades and we have never had this problem. We hope the state government could take strict action as our livelihood has been affected,” said Kong.

Another farmer, Anuar Ahmad, 43, said he was now forced to carry fruits in a gunny sack and walk at least two kilometres to the main road.

“This is a horrible and I hope that the authorities would do something about it. If this does not stop, we are afraid that things would get worse,” he said.

The Auditor-General Report 2014 revealed poor enforcement of the law and lack of coordination between relevant government authorities and agencies had allowed illegal land clearings on the island, especially at water catchment areas such as at Bukit Laksamana in Teluk Bahang.

Teluk Bahang assemblyman Datuk Shah Headan Ayob Hussain Shah called on the city council to look seriously into the illegal land clearings, especially on the hills, and take stern action against the culprits.

“If the law is not strict enough, the city council needs to find an alternative way to thwart the problem. The council should also undertake preventive measures to avoid the problem altogether,” he said.

He said Bukit Laksamana and its valley were an important water catchment area, and were among the 11 gazetted forest reserves in the state.

“The authorities should keep an eye on this area as any development will affect the Teluk Bahang dam, which is among the water source for the state,” said Shah Headan.

In Sungai Ara, local residents were shocked to learn that there was an illegal hilly resort in their neighbourhood.

Wilson Chan Kok Ming, 41 a resident in the area for past five years, was unaware of the hill development.

“It shocks me and, I believe that if the hills were not been taken care of, we will face major floods like Kelantan soon,” said the marketing manager.

Housewife Siti Hasmah Abdul Mutalib, 47, said over-development on the hill side would only cause more harm than good.

“This needs to stop. Otherwise, we are asking for trouble. The state government has the power to put an end to all these as it does not benefit the people,” said Siti Hasmah.

Dashern Nair, 22, said the hills were the natural defender to prevent disasters like flash floods.

“But if the hills are cut, we will face big problems in the future. We need to save our hills, which have an important role in the ecosystem. Without the hills, we will be exposed to disasters,” he said.