Orang Asli villagers looking at a tributary of Sungai Belatop that is covered by mud following a landslide in Kampung Sangwai, Lojing, Gua Musang, last month. The people fear another landslide may happen. (FILE PIC)

KOTA BARU: THE authorities have issued temporary stop-work orders to vegetable farms covering 100ha of land in the Lojing highlands over fears their activities may trigger a landslide that could bury hundreds of Orang Asli living downhill.

The stop-work orders were issued to seven companies that own some 20 farms uphill from several Orang Asli settlements. The firms were found to have breached regulations on the clearing and planting of vegetables.

A Nov 21 landslide at Kampung Sangwai, near Pos Brooke, following heavy rain over several days left the Orang Asli nervous and fearing for their lives.

They lodged a complaint with the Gua Musang District Council, which found that the issue warranted action.

Kelantan/Terengganu Orang Asli Development Department deputy director Azman Ngatiton said the companies were ordered to cease work only recently.

“The landslide at Kampung Sangwai, near Pos Brooke, on Nov 21 struck fear in many Orang Asli in several settlements. They are afraid the rainy season will worsen the situation.

“To address the problem, the department has held a meeting with several agencies, such as the District Office, Land and Mines Office, Department of Environment and representatives of the seven companies,” he told the New Straits Times.

He said the stop-work order would be in effect until Dec 31.

Sources said more than 20 high-risk locations had been identified — all are vegetable farms.

Lojing district and land officer Nik Razak Nik Hassan said most of the seven companies planted long beans and tomatoes.

“The companies have been in business for years.

“They were told to stop after it was found that they breached regulations. Their activities could have contributed to the landslide.”

He said his officers would monitor the situation closely to ensure the companies adhered to the directive.

Stop-work orders a long time coming, say Orang Asli

Orang Asli living near Lojing highlands are relieved that vegetable farms uphill have been issued stop-work orders, though many have that nagging feeling that landslides may still happen.

They said the stop-work orders should have been issued a long time ago.

They wonder whether the damage was irreversible.

Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia Kelantan chairman Mustapa Along said the Orang Asli were happy that some of their problems were solved when some of the farming stopped.

“Landslides caused by activities uphill (land clearing and farming) would not only damage property, but also endanger human life.

“The latest landslide in Kampung Sangwai (on Nov 21) forced at least seven families to move from their homes.

“We do not want this to happen again.”

He said landslides in the area affected the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of Orang Asli families, including those from Kampung Sangwai, Kampung Jegjok and Kampung Kingkong.

“Issuing stop-work orders is a good move... (but) this should have been done a long time ago.

“It is not only for the benefit of the Orang Asli, but also for the safety of other people living in nearby villages.”

Kelantan Malaysian Nature Society secretary Dr Nazahatul Anis Amaludin said the society would investigate the case.

Thanking the New Straits Times for highlighting the case to the society, she said the situation indeed warranted the authorities’ attention, especially during this rainy season.

“This is a high-risk area. There is every possibility that another landslide will occur if the issue is brushed aside.”

She said for the Gua Musang District Council to issue the stop-work orders, it must have had sufficient cause for worry.

“For the safety of all, these activities should be stopped, at least for a while, so that the authorities can conduct checks.”

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