Malaysia: Uncontrolled logging possible cause of Karak landslide - NGO

The Star 12 Nov 15;

KUANTAN: The massive landslide that occurred at KM52.4 of the Karak Highway on Wednesday is believed to be caused by uncontrolled logging at the Lentang Recreational Forest area.

Puan Seri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil, the Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) president, said she had warned of a possible landslide before when she saw uncontrolled logging activities in the forest area following the construction of the Tenaga Nasional Malaysia Berhad (TNB) passageway from Bentong, Pahang to Lenggeng, Negri Sembilan.

She said several protest letters were sent to the state government, and the problem highlighted in the media, but lax enforcement resulted in the illegal clearing of more forest land.

"It is understood that logging activities started in late October 2013 and the encroachers wantonly cleared more land at the Lentang Recreational Forest in the name of development," Shariffa told Bernama, Wednesday night.

"When we knew about this, Peka sent an official letter to the Pahang state government on Jan 20 last year, expressing our concern over possible adverse effects of the uncontrolled logging activities," she said.

Shariffa said despite this, uncontrolled logging remained rampant, leading to more forest land being stripped of vegetation, leading to the massive mudslide on the Karak Highway.

She said the problem could worsen if illegal clearing of forests in Bukit Tinggi and Lentang Recreational Forest area continued.

She added that the downpour and landslide also caused a one-metre high flood at the Tanah Aina Fareena area, the first such incident to occur at the three-hectare eco-tourism getaway since it opened 12 years ago.

According to her, all the furniture and equipment at the popular eco-resort was damaged.

Shariffa is urging the state government and other relevant authorities to view the problem seriously and take immediate action to stop uncontrolled logging to avoid a worse incident, including the loss of lives. - Bernama

Karak landslide caused by overflow of water catchment area, says Fire and Rescue Dept
QISHIN TARIQ The Star 12 Nov 15;

BENTONG: The Karak landslide was caused by an overflow of a water catchment area, not logging on a nearby hill, said the Fire and Rescue Department.

The Department's deputy director-general (operations) Datuk Soiman Jahid said the heavy rain over the last few days had caused the catchment to overflow, picking up sediment and mud which became a landslide.

"The overflow also picked up garbage, logs and large rocks from the hill," he told media, during a briefing at the site.

Soiman said the Department conducted a preliminary aerial inspection to assess the soil structure and water flow.

"I saw an area that had some logging, which appeared quite orderly," he said.

He said there was an area where the trees had been cleared, as well as more water in the catchment area.

"If it rains heavily again, there will be another overflow," he warned.

Asked if the landslide was caused by the logging, Soiman disagreed, saying the primary cause was the overflowing catchment.

He said the department had instructed the Works Ministry and ANIH management to remove the rocks and logs spotted on the hilltop to reduce the damage, should another landslide occur.

As of 2pm, all lanes of the highway remain closed with clearing works at kilometers 52.4 of Karak highway, primarily on the KL-bound lane.

Logging not to blame for Karak mudslide, says Forestry Dept

NOR AIN MOHAMED New Straits Times 12 Nov 15;

KUANTAN: Pahang State Forestry Department director Datuk Mohd Paiz Kamaruzaman today refuted claims that the mudslide which occurred at KM52.4 KL-Karak Highway was caused by excessive logging near the Lentang Forest Reserve.

Paiz when met confirmed that logging activities near the forest reserve had ceased about five months ago, thus the claims were not true.

"The construction of high voltage pylons route by Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) from Bentong to Lenggeng in Negri Sembilan has also been stopped.

"Currently, we are still in discussion with TNB and other relevant agencies due to some issues.

However I can assure you that the mudslide happened not because of logging activities, but perhaps due to slope failures.

"We have to look into details before making any conclusion and I cannot comment further since I have no expertise in this matter," he told reporters after the signing ceremony of MoU between Yayasan Amir Trust School and Yayasan Pahang today.

Also present at the event was Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob.

Paiz also dismissed claims that the trees seen in the mudslide were actually logs from logging activities.

"Logs are usually nicely cut, but in this case you can still see the roots. The trees might have been uprooted following the mudslide.

"We have sent our officers to check on the matter before we can make any conclusions," he said.

Paiz said 25 department staff living at the quarters near the mudslide have also been ordered by the Fire and Rescue Department to move temporarily to a mosque near the area.

Yesterday, one hour of heavy rain caused a major mudslide at KM52.4 of Kuala Lumpur-Karak Highway, cutting off both sides of the highway at 6.30pm.

Land-clearing or natural disaster, authorities debate root of highway mishap
The Star 13 Nov 15;

PETALING JAYA: There is much debate over the cause of the landslide at the 52nd kilometre of the Karak Highway which completely cut off traffic with a torrent of mud and debris.

Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said that the logs that washed out in the landslide could be a sign of forest clearing.

He however said he would need to speak with the Pahang State Government as they were the caretakers of the Lentang Forest Reserve where the alleged logging occurred.

“I cannot confirm it’s logging,” he said, adding that it was too early to speculate while an incident report was being prepared by highway concessionaire ANIH Bhd.

The Protectors of Natural Treasures Associations (Peka) president Puan Sri Sharifah Sabrina Syed Akil claims that a 20km logging trail they had found, starting from the Lentang district Forestry Office which passes through Bukit Tinggi and Janda Baik, during an expedition last year was an indication of what was behind the landslide.

They are part of the building of the TNB passageway from Bentong, Pahang to Lenggeng, Negeri Sembilan.

The land-clearing projects, she claimed, caused the soil to loosen, threatening the area with mudslides and landslides.

Sharifah Sabrina said the Karak Highway – the highest motorway in Malaysia – was more prone to landslides.

“If forest-clearing activities do not stop, it will become another Cameron Highlands,” she claimed.

“These people are very smart. They do not cut (trees) in front of the highway.”

“You would not be able to see their activities when you are driving by,” she said, pointing out that the logging was carried out under the shelter of hills.

She said her research revealed that some of the land-clearing projects were contracted by Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB).

According to her, she wrote a letter to TNB in January last year, voicing her concerns and it had agreed to relocate the project.

“I understand the need to build high-tension wires there. However, they (the contractors) were cutting more than what they needed,” she said.

Sharifah Sabrina believes that lumber at the forest reserve, which could be sold at an exorbitant price, was behind what she alleged was rampant logging.

The Pahang State Forestry Department however, denied claims of logging activities in the area.

Its director Datuk Mohd Paiz Kamaruzaman said the TNB project had stopped and it was looking for alternatives on how to proceed.

Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob said the landslide was a natural disaster unrelated to logging activities.

He said there were was no logging at the area, although TNB had done land clearing to make way for high tension cables.

He stressed that the site was some distance away from the disaster area and the project had stopped months ago.

Fire and Rescue Department deputy director-general (operations) Datuk Soiman Jahid said, heavy rain over the last few days had caused a water catchment to overflow, picking up sediment and mud which became a landslide.

“I saw an area that had some logging, which appeared quite orderly,” he said, referring to an area that had been cleared on the hill.

TNB in an email reply, denied that its projects were the cause of the landslides.

Its senior general manager (corporate affairs and communications) Datuk Mohd Aminuddin Mohd Amin said its two project sites were 780m from where the landslide happened.

The projects were to build a 500kV transmission line from Bentong South to Lenggeng and a 275kV line from Bentong South to Ampang.

“The work to install transmission lines has not started yet,” he said, adding that contracts had only just been awarded.

The landslide occurred around 6.30pm on Wednesday, near Lentang-Bukit Tinggi.

The highway is likely to remain closed till Saturday to facilitate road clearing works and it is possible that the water catchment area could overflow again due to rain.

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