Malaysia: Don’t blame us, it’s global warming, say Cameron Highlands farmers

The Star 26 May 16;

IPOH: Farmers have been unfairly blamed for causing the temperature to go up at Cameron Highlands.

A farmer, who declined to be named, said the rising temperature was a global phenomenon and was affecting the entire planet, not just the highlands.

“I think it’s not right to put the blame on the farmers here. Ipoh, too, had a hot spell few month ago, was it because of the farmers and their farming methods?” he asked.

“It is mainly due to global warming,” he claimed, contrary to an expert’s view that the warming was higher at Camerons than globally.

The farmer also noted that the greenhouse farming method used by some was one of the factors affecting the climate change.

The farmer, in his 60s, also said the general perception towards them have changed because of the illegal land clearing for farming.

“There are thousands of farmers at the highlands. Some of the genuine farmers have been criticised even when they are not involved with the land clearing activities,” he said.

“The authorities could do more to track down those responsible,” he added.

Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary Chay Ee Mong declined to comment.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) inbound vice-president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said that with the massive clearing, heavy rains would cause landslides. He said the winding mountain roads could then be cut off with people stranded, as has happened in the past.

“Many tourists from the peninsula and Singaporeans with interest in farming and nature visit Cameron Highlands. Global warming is everywhere but more noticeable here,” he said.

Urging the Government, especially the Natural Resources and Environment Minister, to make the correct but difficult decisions on enforcement, Tan said safety and lives were “more important than pleasing specific groups of people.”

There should harsher punishment for those who illegally cleared land.

Cameron Highlands Floricultu­rists Association president Lee Peng Fo said they were used to facing landslides and flooding during rains at the end of the year.

“I am more worried about gloomy weather during La Nina as the lack of sun also affects the growth of flowers,” he said.

A new clearing – in water catchment area
The Star 26 May 16;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Barely a day after 7.28ha of land here was found to be illegally cleared, another new site has opened up.

This illegally cleared site, at the top of a hillock, is within a water catchment area serving some 30,000 people in Tanah Rata and Kg Raja.

While the water intake point and plant are fenced, those responsible for the clearing could access the area by cars.

“Even then, that’s a big hole in the fence,” said Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (Reach) president R. Ramakrishnan.

Evidence of the site was captured using video mounted on a remote control device sent up by a monitoring team from Reach.

Screen captures of the video showed two bare patches of brown atop a dense forested area, which is itself surrounded by tracts of farm land.

Ramakrishnan said their team discovered the new illegally cleared site on Sunday.

He said he had yet to inform the land office of this new find.

“Any clearing in a water catchment area is illegal.

“Last weekend, we noticed the bare patches of land when there was none before.

“Sure enough, when we checked, we found the site,” he said, adding that when he was last in that area two weeks ago, there was no clearing.

It was likely that the land was being illegally cleared for agriculture.

“From the video, it’s difficult to assess the size of the clearing involved,” he said.

Ramakrishnan said that in the past three months, there had been increased cases of illegal land clearing, adding that his team was stumbling upon one almost every two weeks.

“Since the first phase of Ops Gading ended last year, the culprits have come back,” he said.

The second phase of Ops Gading started on March 3 and will end on July 30.

Bad news for greens and tourism
SIM LEOI LEOI The Star 26 May 16;

PETALING JAYA: Cameron Highlands is warming at a faster rate, made worse by the El Nino since beginning of this year. And that’s bad news in all sorts of ways.

The rise in temperature will affect the vegetable farms in Cameron Highlands, which produce 600 tonnes of greens every year, reducing both their quality and quantity.

Tourism, another big industry in Cameron Highlands, will also be affected.

The onset of La Nina at the end of the year will bring 10% to 15% increase in rainfall but that’s of little relief as it is likely to lead to landslides, especially around vegetable plots, destroying the produce.

The heat in the first half of the year will also have caused the soil to become loose and dry, making erosion worse during heavy rainfall.

Climate expert Prof Datuk Dr Azizan Abu Samah said global warming had caused a 0.5°C rise in temperature around the world over the past decade.

“But more than global warming, it (temperature increase) is due to Cameron Highlands’ own signature.

It shows a 0.2°C to 0.3°C on top of the rise from global warming,” he said in an interview.

“Some places like Ringlet, with its higher build-up, may see more,” added Prof Azizan.

Data on temperatures in Cameron Highlands over the past 20 years showed that the increase was mainly due to land use changes, he said.

Trees, he said, were a natural “air-conditioning”,

“Leaves are good reflectors and forests, having a bigger surface area of leaves, are better reflectors than vegetables,” he pointed out.

Prof Azizan said most of the legislation on keeping a balanced development in Cameron Highlands were already there but that nobody was enforcing it.

“If we are able to manage the development well we can have the cake and eat it too. But we must not be too greedy,” he said.

The other method, he said, was to keep the forest, adding that this should be on higher altitude than the surrounding areas to have a cooling effect.

Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands president R. Ramakrishnan said the temperature increase was also due to the greenhouse plastic covering used by farmers.

It was also caused by the thousands of visitors flocking to the popular tourist spot.

Asked if the re-foresting of vast tracts of illegally cleared land could help right the temperature, Ramakrishnan said the higher elevation meant slower growth rate for the trees.

“It took us 16 years to reforest a 50 acre barren piece of land in Gunung Brinchang while it should only take five years in the lowlands.”

No new illegal clearing on Camerons, says Wan Junaidi
ROYCE TAN The Star 27 May 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: There are no more new cases of illegal land clearing in Cameron Highlands, says Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He said aerial inspections showed no signs of illegal land clearing, and parts of the forests destroyed were mainly state forests.

“The Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) and the Forestry Department have started replanting at the forest reserves.

“For parts of the forests that were destroyed, we are still discussing with the state government for reforestation and rehabilitation.

“The state government also has to determine whether the lands are from land grants or from illegal clearing,” he told a press conference after the awards ceremony for graduating foresters and forest rangers at the Forestry Training Division in Kepong near here yesterday.

On allegations of misappropriation among officers and officials in the Forestry Depart­ment, he said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission is “observing” the situation.

“If there is any evidence, bring those people to court,” he said.

He added that the proposal to raise the fine in the National Land Code (Amendment) Bill 2016 up to RM500,000 had been passed in the Dewan Rakyat.

“If we want to save the water and the rivers, we have to save the forest, observe the river reserves, the siltation and that those in the logging industry must be aware of the effects from these activities.

“If the forests are destroyed, the sponge effect that absorbs water would be gone; rivers will become shallow and floods would easily occur,” Dr Wan Junaidi said.

In his speech earlier, Dr Wan Junaidi urged everyone to look beyond timber and try to preserve what was present now as it would be costlier to reforest and replant.

“We have to retain at least 50% of forest cover. If you interfere with nature, then nature fights back against you,” he said.

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