CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel has once again come under fire. This time from residents here after he failed to attend a forum organised by the people to discuss environmental issues affecting the highland resort.
Palanivel and Tanah Rata assemblyman Leong Ngah Ngah were invited for the forum, organised by Rakyat Prihatin Cameron, a non-governmental organisation. However, only Leong turned up.
Rakyat Prihatin Cameron spokesman Suresh Kumar said they had extended the invitation
to Palanivel twice to attend the forum.
â€œThe first invite was extended on Nov 14, where we submitted together with 113 signatures from the locals here urging actions be taken to save Cameron Highlands,â€ he said, adding that the second invitation was sent on Nov 27.
He said in both letters, residents had requested Palanivel, who is Cameron Highlands member of parliament, to give a suitable date.
â€œThe dates we gave him were Nov 16, 23 and 30, but he failed to give us a reply.â€
At the forum, residents complained of water pollution, presence of illegal workers, traffic congestion, temporary occupation licence problems as well as flash and mud floods affecting the highland. They called for the setting up of a peopleâ€™s council to monitor developments on the highland.
â€œTo avoid allegations of corruption, the peopleâ€™s council must sit in during approval of projects and to monitor work in progress,â€ Suresh said.
Attempts to reach Palanivel for comment were unsuccessful. It was learnt that he was in Lima, Peru, to attend a conference on climate change until Dec 10.
Palanivel had earlier incurred the wrath of Sultan of Pahang Sultan Ahmad Shah during the rulerâ€™s visit to Cameron Highlands here on Nov 19, in which the ruler saw for himself the environmental devastation in the area.
Palanivel had later denied neglecting his parliamentary constituency and requested for an audience with the sultan.
Mud flood and landslides ripped Ringlet, Bertam Valley and Kuala Terla here on Nov 5, claiming five lives. A similar disaster that occurred in October last year claimed four lives.
In Kuala Lumpur, Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr James Dawos Mamit said a Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (S&EA) needed to be carried out in Cameron Highlands to identify sensitive areas there were prone to natural disasters.
Its findings would be used to mitigate flooding and mudslides in the future.
â€œThe outcome of the study would enable the authorities to come up with mitigation measures for vegetable farmers. For example, in certain slopes, we can tell them to have sediment ponds to prevent flooding and mudslides.
â€œItâ€™s vital to address matters in Sungai Bertam, but itâ€™s equally important to focus on the rest of Cameron Highlands. We need to come up with preventive measures which would also save the government millions in the long run,â€ James told the New Straits Times.
He said if an S&EA was conducted, the allocation such as RM40 million requested last year to upgrade Sungai Bertam in Cameron Highlands to prevent flash floods and landslides and the additional RM40 million requested this year to deepen the Ringlet River and strengthen its embankment could be channelled for other uses.