12 Jul 2013 11:19

KUALA LUMPUR, July 11 (Bernama) -- The Dewan Rakyat today heard that the tourism industry in Cameron Highlands is affected by the illegal clearing of land for agriculture activities which also adversely impacts the environment in the area.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said there had been a decline in the number of local visitors and tourists from foreign countries like Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan to the highlands.

"Illegal clearing of land is a big problem to the residents of Cameron Highlands. That is why I want the non-governmental organisations to play their role in helping to control the situation.

"Because agriculture in Cameron Highlands contributes over RM2 billion worth of exports (annually), I will discuss with friends of the environment and farmers on how the problem can be overcome because if revenue (from tourism) is affected, the country will also lose."

The minister said this in reply to a supplementary question from Khoo Soo Seang (BN-Tebrau) on the best method to balance agriculture activities and the tourism industry with the need to care for the environment.



Palanivel said each farmer who illegally cleared the land had actually "seized" government land with the land sizes ranging from 0.8ha to 1.6ha, despite the Pahang government having approved 5,705.17 hectares of land with temporary occupation licence (TOL) for agriculture activities.

Replying to a supplementary question from M. Kulasegaran (DAP-Ipoh Barat) on higher temperatures in Cameron Highlands nowadays, Palanivel said the situation was also contributed by the global phenomenon of climate change, besides illegal clearing of land.

He noted that the Forestry Research Institute of Malaysia planned to carry out reforestation to keep Cameron Highlands cool.

Palanivel also said that his ministry had identified four main environmental issues in Cameron Highlands, namely soil erosion from rampant clearing of land for agriculture, sedimentation and siltation in rivers, pollution of rivers due to effluent from agriculture activities which affected water quality, and flash floods and mud flows.

He said a number of departments under his ministry, including the Department of Environment, Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) and Forestry Department were carrying out efforts to rehabilitate and preserve the environment in Cameron Highlands.

The minister said the DID would be carrying out eight small projects worth RM1.3 million this year and another three projects worth RM1.2 million next year to deepen and widen the rivers and to also prevent flash floods in the highlands.