A reservoir of worry, one year after mudslide tragedy

By M. HAMZAH JAMALUDIN - 6 November 2014 @ 8:13 AM

 

IT has been a year since the mud flood in Bertam Valley, Cameron Highlands, killed four people and damaged about 100 houses near Sungai Bertam.

While many expressed their concerns about the possibility of such an incident recurring, the main problem that must be tackled is the lack of awareness among the people in the highland area.

So, it’s worrying to hear Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) reveal that two-thirds of the Ringlet reservoir was filled with silt, sand and rubbish.

For this reason, the company must spend RM40 milllion on dredging works this year, which is quite a high sum compared with the RM180 million spent between 2001 and last year.

TNB generation division senior general manager (asset management) Azman Talib recently said that domestic and agricultural waste found in the lake had increased more than 10 times compared with the volume collected in the 1960s.

In 2010, TNB had closed the dam for three months and spent RM80 million to pump out water and conduct dredging works to clean the reservoir.

On Oct 23 last year, TNB was forced to open one of the dam’s four spillway gates, which releases water in stages, after the underground water outlet was blocked by rubbish that caused the mud flood tragedy in the Bertam Valley.

Universiti Utara Malaysia lecturer and water management expert Dr Ahmad Zaharuddin Sani Ahmad Sabri expressed his frustration about those living in Cameron Highlands treating the rivers and the water reservoir as a dumping ground.

He said about one tonne of solid waste was retrieved from the Ringlet lake every week and among the items found were bottles, old furniture, wood products and plastic roofing sheets.

It proves that the awareness level among the public is still low as they continued to discard garbage and disused items into the rivers, which will flow into the lake.

Such an irresponsible act could affect water flow and depth in the rivers and lake, apart from polluting them.

At the same time, uncontrolled land clearing for agricultural activities here have also compounded the situation.

06nt14bval.transformedBertam Valley after the devastating mudslide last year. Efforts must be made to increase awareness of solid waste disposal and land clearing to avoid a recurrence of such a tragedy.
EcoKnights president Yasmin Rasyid said solid waste disposal and land clearing on the upstream of the Sultan Abu Bakar hydroelectric dam must be seriously addressed to avoid recurrences of mudslides.

“There is a serious urgency to review land use patterns in Cameron Highlands. The authorities must gain more public participation to come to an agreeable approach for a better land and water management in the area.”

Therefore, the community, authorities and TNB must work together to stop pollution and avoid similar tragedies in future.

Among others, the authorities could initiate a campaign to create awareness of the importance of rivers while enforcement agencies must take stern action against illegal land-clearing activities and relocate squatters living on the river banks.

The authorities must also have a proper plan to educate the public on the importance of rivers and the Ringlet lake in Cameron Highlands, which are being treated as dumping grounds.

There  must be continued efforts to educate the public on the environment and how changes can affect the people to ensure that the mistake is not repeated and such a tragedy does not recur.

 

Source: http://www.nst.com.my/node/50086

 

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