GEORGE TOWN, Aug 19 ― Two civil society groups are calling for an independent public inquiry to be held into the flash floods and landslides at Gunung Jerai, Yan in Kedah.
Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) said there must be an inquiry to find out the actual causes of the floods and to propose preventive and rehabilitative measures.
They said Kedah Mentri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor must not view the incident as an act of God as it could have been caused by forest cutting and tree clearing.
“The deluge of water with mud that was seen in videos of the incident clearly shows land clearing activities,” the statement by CAP president Mohideen Abdul Kader and SAM president Meenakshi Raman said.
They highlighted that the villagers in Bukit Singkir, Yan had objected to a quarry project in the Gunung Jerai Forest Reserve more than 15 years ago.
They claimed that the quarry was allowed by the then state government despite it allegedly violating the Yan Structure Plan.
“In addition, there should not have been any forest clearing here but images from Google show a lot of trees have been cleared and mining operations going on in this environmentally sensitive area,” they claimed.
They said the destructive activities in the fragile ecosystem should be stopped immediately and rehabilitation measures taken to prevent further destruction that could lead to mud flows, landslides and floods.
“Gunung Jerai is an environmentally sensitive area that must be protected and not destroyed,” they stressed.
They said the state and local governments must collaborate with the federal government to build climate resilience and take up measures such as halting land and forest clearing in environmentally sensitive areas and highlands.
“We cannot be promoting business as usual activities as the massive and tragic floods in Yan have shown,” they said.
They pointed out that the floods in Gunung Jerai had claimed three victims yesterday and that the tragedy was triggered by an upstream water rush at the waterfall area near Gunung Jerai.
Even though Sanusi had denied allegations that the floods were caused by logging activities, they said it could be due to forest cutting and tree clearing so a public inquiry must be held.