Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Floods: Forestry among blamed

The Daily Express / Malaysia

Published on: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Negeri Sembilan: GIANT timber companies and illegal loggers have been blamed for the frequent flooding that caused damage to properties as well as brought misery to the people in Tenom.

Kemabong Assemblyman Datuk Rubin Balang also held the Forestry Department responsible for the damage to the environment and disruption to the people's lives as a result of its "joint cooperation" activities.

"Logging activities carried out by giant (timber) companies, timber thieves and with the Forestry Department cooperation has caused soil and sand erosion from the hills," he said when taking part in the debate.

He said the soil and sand were then washed down to river tributaries and larger rivers such as Sungai Padas, Tomani and Tolokosan and further washed down to the Padas and Pegalan rivermouth that decreases the depth of the riverbed.

The situation has resulted in the rivers being unable to contain excess water during severe rainy seasons. Rubin also said the Tenom hydro dam in Pangi, also contributed to the heavy siltation.

"(In fact) the hydro dam is the largest contributor to the siltation."

He said the frequent floods have threatened the safety of the people, particularly in certain locations such as Kampung Pontungon Sapong, which he described as critical.

The Government, he said, had approved a large allocation to divert the Sungai Padas in the middle of Pontungan Sapong and Kampung Saga two years ago.

Unfortunately, the contractor concerned had to stop the project because a landowner prevented him from continuing the work. Rubin said he took the initiative to conduct several discussions with the community leader, Tenom Assistant Collector Land Revenue and Tenom District Officer.

During the discussions, he proposed the Government acquire the land from the owner using the existing land ordinance, which the District Officer agreed to.

However, he said the Tenom District Officer could not obtain the approval from the Land and Survey Department in Kota Kinabalu. "I raised the matter during the Tenom district development meetings and Land Utilisation Committee (LUC) meeting," he said.

To this end, he suggested the Director of Drainage and Irrigation Department meet with the Director of the Land and Survey Department to resolve the matter.

On the same issue, he suggested the people in Pontungan Sapong be relocated and that the Government prepare a settlement for them.

He said the settlement site has already been identified which is on five acres of land that belonged to Sime Darby Berhad.

He said the government could utilise its timber revenue to build the community housing project under the supervision of the Natural Resource Department.

Unfortunately, he said this proposal has yet to be implemented.

Rubin said the flood phenomenon in Tenom has resulted in the people blaming the Government and elected representative for not taking action.

On other developments, he urged the government to expedite the construction of a road to connect the villages within the Rundum Mukim to enable the villagers transport their farm produce as well as make it easier for the Government to carry out development projects in the Mukim.

Meanwhile, he hoped the Government would carry out a review on the salaries, allowances and privileges of elected representatives.