Saturday, September 5, 2009

Another assault on our fragile ecosystem!


Shot by Mary Maguire
Edited by Antares
Soundtrack: "Overflowing" by Sheldon Blackman & The Love Circle

Early on the morning of 4 September, the residents of Kampong Pertak, Ulu Selangor, were treated to the ominous sound of heavy equipment arriving in the village. A tractor-dozer and excavator had been sent up to begin widening the old logging trail that leads to Bukit Kutu and beyond.

What was this all about? I questioned the excavator operator and he asked me to have a word with Mr Tan, the contractor, who responded vaguely that they had been instructed to "upgrade" the logging trail by the member of parliament for Kuala Kubu Bharu, YB Wong Koon Mun from the MCA.

That was a bit of a surprise. In all the years I've been residing in these parts I've never known the MCA to take any interest in the Orang Asli. I felt sure there was more to this project than merely "improving" the logging trail for the benefit of the villagers.

About six months ago I recall bumping into an overweight Orang Asli named Rapi from Kg Tun Abdul Razak who seemed to be waiting for someone to show up. We chatted a bit and he mentioned something about a plan to tar the logging trail for easier access to the deep jungle. I told him it was the worst idea I had heard in a long time.

He asked me what prompted me to say that and I explained that a tarred road running through the jungle would lead to increased vehicular traffic... and inevitably the destruction of the natural beauty and tranquility of this popular recreational spot. Busloads of daytrippers will start coming up and leaving behind tons of garbage. Soon there will be greedy developers eyeing the prospects of creating luxury resorts and perhaps even a theme park like Mimaland! No way, I said emphatically. Rapi just shrugged.

I subsequently discovered that Rapi was an Umno member and had set himself up as some sort of spokesman for the Temuan community in Selangor. I shuddered at the thought. Yup, that's all the Orang Asli need: some sleazy Umno opportunist representing their interests!

Putting two and two together, it appeared that this encroachment could be yet another attempted rape on the ecosystem by the Barisan Nasional, just about the least environmentally friendly political party you will find anywhere.

I contacted Elizabeth Wong, Selangor state government exco member in charge of the tourism, consumer affairs and the environment, and she called me back shortly to say she had spoken with the District Officer and the Forestry Department and nobody knew anything about a "road upgrading" project in Pertak. She suggested I lodge a police report at once.

Now you'd probably understand my aversion to lodging police reports. Every time I've had to do something like that it takes up to two hours just to go through the bureaucratic rigmarole. Invariably, little action, if any, is taken - unless, of course, it involves honest citizens lighting candles in public places or parading in black clothes, in which event the police are likely to spring into swift response mode with teargas, water cannons and mass arrests.

As luck would have it, the very next morning some well-connected CEO-type nature-loving friends showed up who were incensed when informed of the presence of earthmoving machinery in the jungle. They reported this encroachment to the Splash office at the Selangor Dam and got to speak with the manager by phone. The man assured my friends he would despatch his men to investigate.

As it so happens, my ecowarrior friends are particularly fond of rivers and the great outdoors. They wasted no time walking up the trail to confront the workers, who had managed to make a hideous mess within the space of a few hours, scraping raw the already unstable embankment and leaving piles of loose earth on the steep slope facing the river.

This is the rainy season. In a matter of days the earth will pollute the normally crystalline waters - and within months, if not weeks, landslides may occur as the heavy machinery will put tremendous pressure on the highly erosive soil.

As my friends rightly pointed out, the contractor hadn't even bothered putting up a sign identifying the project. However, Mr Tan had done the necessary and given the headman a handsome bribe to secure his assent. To his credit, he amicably agreed to stop work and ordered the the withdrawal of the earthmoving equipment. I'm certain he has reported our objection to his employer, YB Wong (I mean Koon Mun, not Eli) - who will, in turn, complain to his Umno bosses that those goddam "militant tree-huggers" are interfering with "progress and development" and need to be investigated.

I'm half expecting a visit from the Special Twig any moment now. Indeed, they might even assign an entire Branch to this case.


Crankster said...

Shit, that really sucks. Now that's not development at all - that's an abomination to nature and wildlife.

It's going to deplete our resources even more, and I'll bet the rivers are going to turn even more murky due to soil erosion.

Crankster said...

We need to change the bloody government.

Starmandala said...

Cranky - I'm highlighting this encroachment to show what is still happening in Selangor even though we're now under new management. The BN component parties have lost political power but they have access to large amounts of booty which they are using to undermine the moral and environmental health of the state - at the same handing out "goodies" to secure popular support, especially amongst the contractors. The state government has been changed. Next, we have to change the federal government!

This spurious "road upgrading" project will be halted one way or another. If humans can't stop it, nature will. Wait and see. Powerful magick here... don't pray pray.

Unknown said...

these fuckers are up to no good

they are there spending money to upgrade the road with intentions to bring out illegal sand or illegal timber

they have raped the forest in serendah before to get to the sand under the forest

and they use the river water to wash and sieve the sand turning the river into a flow of slimmy shit

with sand prices escalating to rm 450 per load these fuckers will do anything to get their dirty hands on it

in serendah they did put up a sign

cadangan untuk earthworks for low cost houses but it is bullshit

thanks for being vigilant

give them hell

and if u need help let me know

Gerald Wee Eng Kian said...

Satellite view via Google maps is not much help in looking into what these idiots are doing- the place is a complete bush. So if there is help to be offered, it can to be someone willing to hoof it and have a good look at what is being done.

Amazingly enough, I happen to have a good camera and lots of free time.

Donald G.H Tan said...

Bloody fuck! Damn MCA. Just leave the jungles alone you bloody dumb prick.
This is my favourite stomping ground for the last 38years! Now it is threaten.Selangor do not have many reserves like that anymore.
Call me, I've got HD Video equipment too. Co-incidentally I made a 5min HD clip on the dam and the waterfall.It is at my blogsite and Youtube at "donaldghtan"
The road we used to travel is now underwater.

Donald G.H Tan
Birds Talking Too

Anonymous said...


im from Klang. pertak has been THE unstressing spot for many us for umpteen years. lets get together to stop the destruction.


Starmandala said...

Dear Friends, thank you all very much for your reassuring show of support. The issue is not so clear-cut as it may seem. I spent the whole morning discussing the matter - first with Yam Kokok, the oldest and wisest man in Kg Pertak. He came over early in the morning to ask why I was opposing the road upgrading project. He said a better road would make life easier for the Orang Asli as they can access their orchards more conveniently. Later my mother-in-law also came over to question why I was trying to halt the project. I'm not sure if I succeeded in explaining the complexity of the issue. But I used an analogy where a stranger hands you RM100 and then smilingly suggests you go to the pasar malam and have fun shopping while he guards your house. Chances are, you will return from town to find the stranger gone - along with all your prized possessions, leaving you a bare house. The Orang Asli are not familiar with the idea of a Trojan Horse, so I couldn't use that metaphor. I tried so many different analogies: I asked them to picture a beautifully gift-wrapped present left at their doorstep. Be careful when you open it... because there's a deadly scorpion lurking inside! In effect, the short-term benefits a better grade of road may offer must be weighed against the long-term irretrievable loss of the Orang Asli's fixed deposit account - a healthy jungle uninfected with industrial pollutants (from increased vehicular traffic) and crass commercialism (ugly theme park type "ecotourist" developments); and, worst of all, a ruined ecosystem where the rivers are no longer crystalline (which would be the case if intruders begin to use the lorry accessible road to mine for sand).

Gerald Wee Eng Kian said...

Looking at how crony capitalism works, the Temuan would probably be given an access road they cannot use. It'll be blocked off while under construction and then alienated from them when the Big Idea [tour buses] comes into the scene. Basically they lose again.

Birds Talking Too said...

Just uploaded a revised Full HD Video version of the Sungei Selangor Dam in KKB on youtube. I dedicate this video to the natives (Orang Asli) there. Hopefully all things will go untouched and peaceful.
Cheers and Regards
Donald G.H Tan

youtube: donaldghtan
blogsite: Birds Talking Too

TheWhisperer said...

I was there on the 5th.. Surprised to see them paving the road with gravels.

Thought a by-election is on the card for Kg Pertak folks.

A real mess was created on the slope leading to the river.

The water level in Selangor dam has indeed dropped tremendously and I have photographs proof of it. All in the span of 2 months.

Anyway, sorry for not dropping by to say hi as I noticed that you already have a bunch of visitors outside your villa.

But you can expect my presence soon. I intend to enjoy its present serenity and pure nature before it is taken away by illegal logging.

See you soon, Bro and my regards to your family and loud Mary..