Landslides, floods in Pahang hills caused by unchecked development -Audit report

The 2019 audit report tabled at the Dewan Rakyat in December 2020 was tabled at the state assembly on Aug 25, 2021. Photo courtesy of Audit Department.

From exemptions given to two companies on the submission of Environmental Impact Report (EIA) to companies not following EIA conditions while carrying out their work and to a company having started work despite not getting approval from the authorities for Environmental Management Plan and failure by 50 percent of the holders of Temporary Settlement Permit (LPS) to follow the National Land Code conditions and the fact that some of these developments were in reserved areas, were all contributors to a serious compromise in the care of environment in the hilly areas of Pahang. A committee set up to handle development in elevated areas (JPPT) in 1995, never met even once. Nature in turn returned the carelessness with natural calamities. These were among some of the “environmental sins” and there are more in the findings of the 2019 Pahang Audit Report released today.

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 – The carelessness with which the hilly areas of Pahang were handled and the subsequent natural calamities such as floods and landslides that the areas had to endure were some of the findings that were listed out in the Auditor-General’s Report 2019 following its audit of the Bentong Town Council, Bentong Land and District Office, Pahang Forestry Department and Pahang’s Department of Environment published today.

The Report was tabled at the state assembly on Wednesday and made available to the public today.

The Auditor General Datuk Nik Azman Nik Abdul Majid in his foreword expressed hope that the report will be used as a basis to rectify the weaknesses and enhance the management and performances of the government agencies. Apart from increasing the accountability and integrity of civil servants, he also hoped the issues raised in the Report would provide lessons to ensure that the state government derives value for money from each of the ringgit spent.

The areas audited were Special Management Areas (SMA – areas identified as highly sensitive to any ecosystem changes) Genting Highlands, Bukit Tinggi and Janda Baik in Bentong.

On the management of elevated land, hills and slopes in Bentong, the report found that unchecked development in the areas compromised the environment and was a major factor for incidents like flash floods and landslides in the areas.

Although the activities contributed to economic development indirectly, especially to tourism and agriculture, these activities — carried out in settlement zones, agricultural zones and forest zones — were not carried out properly and there were no mechanisms for proper assessment on the outcome of the activities.

Works were also carried out under two projects in slope areas that had been exempted from submitting EIAs.

A committee set up handle development in elevated areas (JPTT) did not meet even once since its establishment in 1995, the Report said.

About 60 percent of the LPT holders did not follow the guidelines of the conservation plan for the SMAs.

Among others, a 500 KV double circuit transmission line from PMU Bentong South to PMU Lenggeng also did not follow the conditions set by the EIA report.

About eight permit holders also breached the terms of use for forest areas and there was also a case of extending use beyond the given area.

Several growers of vegetables and ginger with permits for use of forest also did not prepare pond sediment traps.

The agencies responsible for supervising the areas did not conduct any surprise audits while there was also no monitoring of the use of pesticide in the forest planting and LPT areas.

There was also case of difference in the usage of land between what was on record and what the area eventually used for.

For instance a forest land that was used for the purpose of LPT and agriculture identified through a satellite picture.

According to the Report, this lapse in environment care was contributed by a lack of coordination between the parties responsible for monitoring the areas.