Not Act of God But Overdevelopment Cause For Many “Natural” Calamities

Some of the recent activities in the Gunung Jerai/Bujang Valley area in Kedah include gold mining. While the environmental impact remains unclear, what is clear is the loss of forest cover in the area. Loss of forest cover reduces natural protection against floods.

It is not the retreats taken by nature lovers to meditate in some nice spot in Gunung Jerai in Kedah and it may not even be the “Khurafat” or the ill-worshipping to seek lottery numbers and so on by some people, that could have caused the massive damage to the landscape of Kedah’s highest peak and brought on floods and landslides.No Sir, the cause for the recent floods and landslides in the area cannot be due to the ridiculous claim made by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs)  Idris Ahmad who is seeking to stop all forms of worshipping in Gunung Jerai, saying such activities were responsible for the recent “divine wrath in the form of head water, floods and landslides,” as reported by Harian Metro recently. 

It is funny how Man is always associating all the tragedies with the act of God when they could have prevented such tragedies by doing the right thing.

The Tupah Recreational Forest is a protected forest area in the Kuala Muda District in Kedah. This lowland dipterocarp forest is located 14 km from the town of Bedong and 54 km from Alor Setar. Sungai Tupah, which runs through the area has its source in Gunung Jerai. These are the kind of ancient heritages that should be protected and left for future generations and tourists, but with proper monitoring in line with environment protection.

For instance taking care of Gunung Jerai, which is not only a unique heritage known both for the ruins and remnants left by the past rulers or people of the place but for its natural rainforest beauty.

While we await a logical explanation with proof on the recent environmental disaster there, it would be wise for the minister to wait for the report rather than go around planning to get rid of those who go up the hills to meditate or to strike some lottery by worshipping in some ill-built, make-shift “temples”. They may have been already doing it for the past few decades without triggering any landslides or flood. They may not need monitoring but other illegal activities there might.

In the last 25 years or so, the Gunung Jerai area, has been subjected to plenty of “development” from commercial buildings to other new structures to cater to visitors and boost tourism. The ones properly built and in accordance with the standard environmental guidelines should be fine but the authorities must still have a limit on these developments.

More than a decade ago, there were few structures there and they co-existed well including the ancient ruins of palaces, temples and other structures that were obviously built in an environment-friendly way.

Although the mountain has seen excavations, removals of historic relics, relocation of structures and so on following the recovery made by the colonial days, the natural structure had been retained for long.

Activities nearby Gunung Jerai area are also contributing to environmental destruction in the area. There is a gold mining site there, the legality of its existence is yet to be ascertained. Perhaps the authorities can look into these activities more than that carried out by individuals such as trekking, retreats and so on.

Officials responsible for the well-being of the area should be constantly be on the look-out for environment-destructive behaviour such as clearing the land for commercial purpose, building commercial buildings without an EIA report and so on before tragedy strikes. The proactive measures should aim at preserving the area as a national treasure for future generations to enjoy rather than a “gold mine” to clear it of all natural resources for temporary cash gains.

AS Mani