Sunday, September 13, 2009

DO NOT DISTURB! THIS LAND IS SACRED!

Last week I blogged about the sudden intrusion of earthmoving equipment into Kampong Pertak and how our swift response was able to stop the rampage within a day. Well, the digging and scraping started on Friday. The excavator and tractor pulled out on Saturday afternoon. And late Sunday night a heavy downpour resulted in a major treefall - right across the access trail. The forest had decided to form its own barricade against vehicular traffic.

This slope has always been extremely sensitive to vibration, especially in wet weather. Since 1994 when I moved to Kg Pertak, there have been at least a dozen collapses, usually triggered by attempts to widen the trail, military exercises, or large convoys of 4X4s. Conditions here are similar to the catastrophic alternative road to Fraser's Hill. From an initial cost of RM6 million the roadworks ballooned to more than RM30 million, because of constant landslips. The road has now been abandoned.

A good chunk of the hill accompanied the tree...

These large boulders with tree roots wrapped around them are what holds up the embankment. Once a few big ones come tumbling down, the entire slope becomes permanently unstable. Slapping a layer of cement over the collapsed slope is only a band-aid solution that won't last more than two years. Proper reinforcement works don't come cheap - and will transform a charming trail into another soulless highway. Will some UMNO crony think of setting up a toll booth?

Muddy runoff... straight down the embankment and into a previously crystalline river...

The contractor wanted to finish the job as quickly as possible. No time to worry about where to dump the raw, scraped earth. So it gets piled up along the edge of a steep embankment, waiting for the next heavy downpour...

It's a vibrant new reality with Pakatan Rakyat in charge of Selangor. A few SMSes and phonecalls - and district councillor Chua Yee Ling is sent to investigate. She confirms that there has been no application for a permit to commence roadworks in Kg Pertak, the Forestry Department was not notified, and the District Office is completely in the dark. The fact that this illegal project was ostensibly funded by the MCA at the instigation of some UMNO members makes the whole deal even shadier. Some folks find it convenient to forget that this entire area is classified Hutan Simpanan Kekal - Protected Forest Reserve.

District councillor Yee Ling and her friend Ken took lots of photos and will be reporting to Elizabeth Wong, Selangor state exco in charge of tourism, consumer affairs and the environment. I suggested that the state government help the Orang Asli acquire a secondhand truck which can easily access the trail and bring out bamboo and durians harvested by the villagers. A much cheaper, simpler solution which will not bring about the further contamination of the area by greedy developers and those insensitive to the magical and mysterious nature of the forest.
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