Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vegetables to cost more during CNY

Shortage of supply may raise prices of greens
By Foong Thim Leng
Wednesday January 20, 2010

Cameron Highlands: Prices of vegetables with names that symbolise good tidings are expected to go up during Chinese New Year because of higher demand and lower supply.

Supply of the vegetables is expected to be lower because farms here were recently affected by bad weather, said Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary-general Chay Ee Mong.

These include pak choy (cabbage – which gives the meaning of wealth), sang choy (lettuce – longevity), spring onions (chung – wisdom) and leeks (suan, which rhymes with "counting" in Mandarin).

Chay said demand for local vegetables would also increase as imports from China were expected to cost 30% more because heavy snowfall there resulted in poor harvests.

"We expect imports to be less as China has to feed its own population," he said in an interview.

Chay added that the price of leafy greens such as sawi from the highlands was affected by the big production of the vegetable from lowland farmers.

Vege prices up, pork to cost more due to high demand and low supply

Chinese New Year reunion dinners and other festive meals are going to cost more as prices of popular festive vegetables and pork keep escalating.

Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary-general Chay Ee Mong said prices of pak choy (cabbage), sang choy (lettuce) and suan (leeks) — vegetables that symbolise good tidings — are expected to increase by as much as 30% due to high demand and low supply.

Prices of live pigs have risen by 4% since last October, from RM730 per 100kg to RM760, and the price of pork from RM14 to RM22 per kg during the same period because of a reduction in porkers (adult pigs) by breeders due to disease and culling of old sows.

To stabilise the rising pork prices the Veterinary Services Department has stepped in to relax the import conditions for pork and pork-based products, while the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry will for the first time put pork under the price control list along with sugar and other essential items for Chinese New Year. -- The Star News.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cameron Highlands Enviromental Issues

Cameron Highlands will always have environmental issues as long as there are "tidak apa" people in the government approving project without a care. Perhaps the lack of transparency in approving projects or some other undesirably elements (you know what I mean, the sad state of affairs in this country won't be solved overnight). Cameron Highlands will not be the only affected place, there are so many examples of gross neglect in preserving the environment in every part of Malaysia. Once this blows over, it will just be a footnote in the government. Sheesh...

Stop project in Cameron
Tuesday January 12, 2010

GEORGE TOWN: The Kampung Tersusun (Melayu) Anggerik project in Cameron Highlands should be cancelled to prevent tragedies related to hill development.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president S.M. Mohamed Idris said that although the authorities’ move to issue a stop work order was positive, they should in fact put an end to the project.

"The project should not have been approved by the authorities as it falls under Class 4 (above 35 degrees gradient) slopes.

"There should not be any form of physical development in this environmentally sensitive area," he said.

Mohamed Idris, who is also Consumers’ Association of Penang president, was commenting on The Star’s front page report headline, "Hillside hazard" which said phase one of Kampung Tersusun (Melayu) project had encroached into 'forbidden’ zones. The proposed settlement scheme fell on a hilly terrain within Mentigi Forest Reserve and Gunung Jasar.

Mohamed Idris said that in view of the grave danger and previous tragedies in highland areas, it was vital the proposed development be relocated to a safer location.

"The authorities should also take firm action to ensure that the developers undertake rehabilitation of the exposed slopes," he said in a statement. -- Star News

Bureau urged to do own probe on environmental complaints
Wednesday January 13, 2010

PETALING JAYA: The Public Complaints Bureau's (PCB) over-reliance on feedback from government agencies that it is investigating can undermine its ability to resolve recurring problems of over-development in Cameron Highlands.

"I don't think the bureau is doing a thorough job. It is overly reliant on agencies against which complaints were levelled for clarification.

"It should be more proactive in handling complaints, like analysing all angles of mismanagement," said R. Ramakrishnan, the president of environmental watchdog Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (Reach).

He said that from his experience in handling environmental-related complaints filed with PCB, the bureau wrote to the agencies concerned for comments.

"For instance, the slopes on Gunung Jasar clearly fall into the category of environmentally-sensitive area, where no physical development is to be allowed, and this is noted in the Local Plan, a document prepared by the district council itself," he said in response to a Starprobe article on the proposed settlement scheme in Tanah Rata.

The scheme, Kampung Tersusun (Melayu) Anggerik, is to be undertaken by the chairman of the Desa Anggerik Development Committee and claimed on its signboard that it had obtained the work permit from the Land Office.

District officer Datuk Mohamad Noor Abdul Rani, who is in charge of the Land Office, however, has refused to comment on the matter.

Local residents have petitioned for the project to be relocated as the development could destabilise the steep hillside. -- Star News

Contractor erred during earthworks
Thursday January 14, 2010

KUANTAN: The contractor who carried out earthworks in a settlement scheme that apparently encroached into a hilly terrain within the Mentigi Forest Reserve and Gunung Jasar did not put in place mitigation measures.

State Local Government, Envi­ronment and Health Committee chairman Datuk Hoh Khai Mun said the contractor, who started earthworks on May 4, did not have measures such as a siltation pond, causing silt to flow into a nearby creek.

"A stop-work order was issued on May 8 last year and no work has been done since as the authorities are not satisfied with the contractor's mitigation steps," he said after a state exco meeting here yesterday.

The Star highlighted the adverse environmental effects following earthworks carried out for the Kampung Tersusun (Melayu) Ang­gerik project, which is a new settlement in Cameron Highlands.

Silt and uprooted old growth during land clearing had affected the creek's water quality while nearby residents had expressed concern over the site, described as an "environmentally sensitive area".

It was also reported that the project was undertaken by the Desa Anggerik Development Committee chairman and a building plan indicated that there would be 80 lots on a 13ha area.

Hoh said an application for a land clearing permit was submitted to the land and district office about three months earlier by Sabri Saad, a Desa Anggerik committee representative.

He said the Drainage and Irrigation Department had, in its feedback, stated that the DID had no objection to the application as the creek was small.

"A permit was issued on April 17 last year with various conditions and that the department would monitor the progress," Hoh said, adding that the stop-work order was issued following a complaint from the DID.

However, Hoh denied the scheme had encroached into the reserve, adding that it was actually located within a Malay reserve area gazetted on Nov 19, 1998.

He said the creek was also not feeding into Sungai Terla, which was the main source of water for Cameron Highlands, as the site was located downstream from the river and the temporary occupation licences were only for 76 individuals on an 8ha land.

Hoh said he would meet the district officer today.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hillside hazard and other issues

Cameron Highlands is popular for tourist. But it has a number of enviromental issues. And yet again they are in the limelight for irresponsible development. And this was showcase in the frontpage of the local daily too! Cameron Highlands popularity sure produces it own set of problems. Hopefully the authority will do the needful to keep the enviroment protected or we are going to lose this beautiful highland retreat, not to mention the damage to its biodiversity. Sigh!

Hillside Hazard
By Hillary Chiew

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: This famous hill resort is no stranger to bad press, environmentally speaking.

From landslides to rising temperatures, from illegal land use to river contamination, the famous hill station is threatened by overdevelopment.

With the scarcity of flat land, development projects have inevitably encroached into forbidden zones. The latest involves a settlement scheme on a hilly terrain within Mentigi Forest Reserve and Gunung Jasar.

Last May 4, bulldozers cut a 500m trail into the forest reserve, uprooting the old growth and silting creeks that feed into Sungai Tela, a major water source of Cameron Highlands.

A signboard declared that the clearing is for phase one of Kampung Tersusun (Melayu) Anggerik undertaken by the chairman of the Desa Anggerik Development Committee. There is no mention of the architect, geotechnical engineer and developer.

But the earthwork stopped abruptly four days later. Sources said a stop-work order was issued by the District Office, signed by its Chief Assistant District Officer Mohd Isa Awang Chik, purportedly following complaints from the Drainage and Irrigation Department over the absence of silt prevention measures during the construction of the access road.

For the last eight months, residents of Carnation Park and their neighbours in Lembah Jasar, who live next to the project and had opposed it, have been left in the dark over the fate of the project. The residents numbering approximately 2,800, are wary that the project might be allowed to resume later.

A resident, who only wanted to be identified as Mrs Chong, said the residents first heard about plans to develop the forest reserve in 2005.

High tension: The TNB pylon on the ridge of Gunung Jasar, Cameron Highlands has caused landslides on the steep terrain.
High tension: The TNB pylon on the ridge of Gunung Jasar, Cameron Highlands has caused landslides on the steep terrain.

"We collected (signatures for) a petition and submitted it to the Mentri Besar. Then everything went quiet. Right after the March 8 general election (in 2008), word went around that part of the reserve had been degazetted and turned into a Malay reserve, and that temporary land titles had been issued to the Desa Anggerik Committee.

"We are shocked that a human settlement is going to be located on such steep slopes. It will endanger the would-be occupants as well as we who live at the fringe of the hill," she said.

An area of 562ha was gazetted in 1933 as the Mentigi Forest Reserve but a total of 203ha were already excised over the years, with the largest plot being 192ha in 1996.

She said Gunung Jasar is prone to erosion, as evident from the occurrence of several landslides along the TNB pylon; the area was destablished when the transmitter structures were erected. Chong expressed concern that future phases of the housing project will creep into steeper terrains.

She insisted that the petition was not against the creation of a Malay village but was an appeal for the project to be relocated to a safer place.

According to the Local Plan, the project site falls into Class 3 (above 26° gradient) and Class 4 (above 35° gradient) slopes which are environmentally sensitive areas that should not have any form of physical development.

Nevertheless, the project claimed that it had obtained a "work permit" from the Land and District Office, as declared on its signboard.

District officer Datuk Mohamad Noor Abdul Rani, however, refused to be interviewed. He conveyed a message of "no comments" through his personal assistant.

When contacted, Desa Anggerik Committee chairman Usop Yong also declined comment.

Who's responsible? The signboard announcing the Phase One development of Kampung Tersusun (Melayu) Anggerik next to the road leading into Carnation Park. It does not state who the architect, geotechnical engineer or developer are.
Who's responsible? The signboard announcing the Phase One development of Kampung Tersusun (Melayu) Anggerik next to the road leading into Carnation Park. It does not state who the architect, geotechnical engineer or developer are.

"The matter is with the state government. No comments," he said.

Meanwhile, the contractor for the project – Alam Rimba Sdn Bhd – when approached in Tanah Rata in June last year confirmed that a stop-work order was issued in the early days of the project but said the directive came from Kuantan, the state administrative centre.

"The state government instructed that all hill slope projects be stopped temporarily. The rest of it, I don't know. I'm just the contractor," said its director Capt (Rtd) Azman Ahmad.

However, he claimed that the title for the land was approved 15 years ago.

"We discussed with the Land and District Office and the State Govern-ment the shortage of land for the growing population of Malays in Cameron Highlands. Those given the lots are Malays who live in the town, like civil servants, business operators and pensioners. They are low-income earners."

When asked about safety measures, he explained that the cutting of the slope will be limited to a built-up area of around 278sqm in a lot measuring 501sqm to 929sqm.

The building plan obtained indicated that there would be 80 lots on the 13ha site. Overlaying the plan on the Local Plan clearly showed the type of terrain the development will be located on (see graphic).

He said the building plan was drawn up by the Town and Country Planning Department and submitted to the Land and District Office for approval.

He later turned hostile and questioned this reporter's intention. "Is this going to be a positive or negative story? Are you trying to jeopardise a project for the Malays?"

Last July, residents brought their concerns to the attention of the Public Complaints Bureau (PCB).

Following its inspection of the site on Sept 20 by two of its officers, accompanied by a land and district senior officer, state PCB director Azlan Shah Abdul Latif informed Chong (the complainant) that the case was closed as there was no evidence of earthwork that contravened the stop-work order and that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating the case which it has listed as case No.48793.

The state Malaysian Anti-Corrup-tion Commission has not found any element of corruption in the development of the project in Kampung Tersusun Melayu Angerik.

Pahang MACC Director Datuk Sutinah Sutan said the commission had received complaints and reports from the public alleging corrupt practises.

"We investigated each and every allegation and found that the problem was more towards administrative than corrruption.

"Nonetheless we will continue to keep an eye on the project to ensure there is no hanky panky involved,'' she told The Star.

She appealed to the public to contact or provide the MACC with information if they knew of any corrupt practises that took place either involving the project or any other deals. -- StarProbe.

Water supply affected by overdevelopment

IT may be the coolest place in Pahang but Cameron Highlands is a water-stressed district in the state.

A resident of Carnation Park, Vasu Karupiah, said that overdevelopment has affected the water catchment areas in the highlands and that illegal vegetable farms are placing tremendous strain on the water supply. The situation is further compounded by the influx of tourists during the holiday seasons.

"During peak season, the flow is controlled, and this housing estate is at the end of the supply line, so we often end up without any water," he lamented.

As Carnation Park, a mixed housing estate comprising four-storey apartments, link-houses, low- to medium-cost flats and bungalows – and 570 households – is close to the Mentigi Forest Reserve which has clear running streams, residents have resorted to siphoning the water off the hills.

They claimed that they had no choice as they could not cope with the frequent water disruptions. A check in the hills showed rubber pipes lining the paths, transferring mountain stream water into huge rubber water containers which are then directed to individual homes.

Other residents said it was a shame that the water supply is getting contaminated as more water catchment areas are contaminated due to soil erosion and the leeching of agro-chemicals from indiscriminate land-clearing and farming practices.

Tung Wan Fee, who used to picnic atop Gunung Jasar, said the highest pylon is perched precariously on the ridge. He expressed concern that any further disturbance could destabilise the slope and cause the pylon to collapse.

Many Kandasamy, a resident of Block B of the SEDC flats located on a hillock, said he learnt that the controversial Kampung Anggerik development project will stretch from Carnation Park to the slopes surrounding the flats.

"We have a water tower here that might collapse if the slope is disturbed. We've not been told what exactly the project entails. How can a housing project on these slopes be approved?" he said, gesturing towards the slopes that are presently covered in thick vegetation. -- StarProbe.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Restoran Zainab Sam

Restaurant Zainab Sam's nasi lemak (left) and ikan keli masak sambal.

FOR good Malay food in the Cameron Highlands, make your way to this outlet. Zainab Sam Abdul Latif started a stall in 1974 and over the years, it expanded into this small restaurant.

At 66, Zainab, who hails from Batu Gajah, Perak, still actively attends to her customers, who declare that she serves the best Malay and Thai-style cuisine in the area.

The restaurant serves fried rice in many styles, such as nasi goreng kampung and nasi goreng Pattaya. Prices start from RM3, depending on the cooking style and the ingredients. If you opt for plain rice, Zainab offers about 20 types of vegetable, meat and fish dishes daily.

There is also good sup tulang or beef bone soup to be found here. What is outstanding is the ikan keli masak sambal. Zainab's nasi lemak with its flavourful rice is also good. - Star Street Food Guide.

Restoran Zainab Sam
(Opposite HSBC Bank)
10 Main Road, Tanah Rata.
Tel: 05-491 1917
Open 6.30am to 10pm.
Days off not fixed.

(That's why it is difficult to try it. So many times I look for this stall and still no luck trying it! Cheers!)

Friday, January 08, 2010

Cameron Highlands Indian farmers facing eviction

Cameron Highlands Indian farmers facing eviction

Makkal Osai front-paged the plight of 600 Indian families, who have been involved in agriculture for the past 50 years in Cameron Highlands, who are now facing eviction.

Cameron Highlands Indian Farmers Association president P. Viswanathan said that most of the farmers were on temporary occupancy licence (TOL) land.

He said the Government had received reports that their agricultural waste products were being emptied into the rivers resulting in drinking water being contaminated.

They were issued eviction notices by the Land Office.

Viswanathan said the Land Office had said that although the TOL licences were valid until 2015, the Government could take back the land for development if the need arose.

He said many of the farmers had taken agricultural loans.

He added that the Land Office should at least allocate alternative plots of land to those who had been involved in farming for more than 40 years.

Previously, the Government had given alternative land to TOL landowners whose agricultural land was taken up for a road widening project.

He said the Government should consider that most of the affected farmers depended solely on the income from their agricultural business ventures. - Makkal Osai