A reply to the statement of Pahang State Secretary Datuk Seri Dr Sallehuddin Ishak regarding the issue of water pollution at Sungai Ichat

Pahang State Secretary Datuk Seri Dr Sallehuddin Ishak had failed to understand the real cause of water pollution in Cameron Highlands, as evidenced by the accusations he made towards farmers at Sungai Ichat.

An enforcement operation by the Pahang State Government began on February 25. In this operation, as many as 61 farms with the size of 55 hectares will be involved in this two-phase operation. 11 farms are involved in the first phase which is expected to end in the middle of this month, whereas the second phase involving 50 farms will begin in the coming April.

Dr Sallehuddin Ishak accused that the farms are located at the intake of Sungai Ichat dam, from which 70% of its water is channelled to residents in Cameron Highlands.

Dr Sallehuddin Ishak’s accusation is inaccurate as the river that provides water to Kuala Terla Water Treatment Plant now is Sungai Terla and not Sungai Ichat.

We cannot deny that Sungai Ichat is badly polluted. Nevertheless, I have to remind Dr Sallehuddin Ishak that the State Government should firstly tackle the cause of Sungai Terla’s pollution and not Sungai Ichat.

Based on a study conducted by researchers from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia titled “Impacts of Land Development Activities on Water Intake Areas of Cameron Highlands”:

“kawasan tadahan air Sungai Terla terganggu akibat aktiviti pembukaan tanah bagi tujuan penempatan dan pertanian dan seterusnya memberi tekanan kepada keseimbangan sumber alam di sekitarnya terutamanya terhadap sumber air di kawasan punca pengambilan air Sungai Terla. Manakala kawasan punca pengambilan air yang lain (Sungai Tringkap, Ulong, Burung dan kawasan hulu Sungai Bertam) tidak mengalami sebarang bentuk pembangunan guna tanah dan keseimbangan sumber alam sekitar pada umumnya masih kekal dan terpelihara.”[1]

It is shown that the Sungai Terla water catchment area is affected by land development activities for residential and farming purposes. It is therefore affecting the balance of nature, particularly towards the source of water at Sungai Terla. Meanwhile, other areas of water sources (Sungai Tringkap, Ulong, Burung and Sungai Bertam upstream area) did not encounter any form of land development, and thus the balance of nature very much remains intact and is protected.

With that I appeal to the State Government to stop the special operation towards farms near Sungai Ichat for some time and engage with the farmers through dialogues to reach a “win-win solution”, or to give them a longer notice period so that the farmers can harvest before farms are demolished.

The special operation involves 61 farms and hundreds of families who have been farming for decades. The State Government should act in a more humane way and to give the farmers a way out, such as relocating the farmers.

Chiong Yoke Kong
Media statement by Chiong Yoke Kong in Cameron Highlands on Sunday, 10th March 2019