KUANTAN: Even after Pahang government agencies have been told to investigate the controversial land clearing in Bukit Sekilau here, a lorry and heavy machinery can still be seen operating there.
During a check by the New Straits Times from behind the large barrier of the entrance to the land clearing site, a lorry was seen moving down a slope of the 300m bald hill as sounds of crunching rocks could be heard.
Two heavy machineries were seen on the top of the treeless hill. They were still and have seemingly adopted a watchful eye over goings-on within the property, which was fenced in by dark-blue zinc fence, and the residential areas nearby.
However, no workers were seen on the foot of or near the hill.
A director of a company hired by the developer of the 2.7ha property, who declined to be named, scoffed at concerns of adverse environmental impact from the land clearing.
“Residential areas are quite far (from the area being cleared) and the water (mud flood) will not reach the houses,” he said.
He said his company carried out controlled blasting at the site, which ensured a more efficient result and reduced negative fallout from the land clearing, which had been going on since late last year.
He said his rock-blasting company was well-equipped to handle the situation due to its 30-year experience in the field, and that the clearing was expected to be wrapped up by the end of next year.
Asked why his company was hired to clear land, he said it was to clear the area for a housing project.
On whether an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report had been sent to the authorities prior to land clearing, he said he was not sure as matters like that were handled by the owner of the land.
When contacted, a man who is the chief executive officer of the land’s developer said he was overseas and would issue a statement on the matter next week.
On the state government’s directive for state agencies to investigate the issue, Bukit Sekilau resident Khamsiah Othman, 53, said something should have been done much earlier.
“The authorities should have taken action long ago as the situation was becoming critical.”
She said the state government must take action soon as it was the monsoon season, which increased the risk of mud floods and other natural disasters linked to extreme land clearing.
On the land clearing company’s claim that there was no mud flood risk due to the houses being far from the site, she said she disagreed, and that even a house 100m from the hill could be hit by mud floods.
“The quarters for Forestry Department personnel are close to the hill. They are in danger too,” said Khamsiah, a former employee of the Pahang Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council.
Yesterday, state Basic Facilities and Environmental Committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Soffi Abdul Razak said state government agencies, including the Kuantan Municipal Council (MPK), district Land and Mines Office and state Minerals and Geoscience Department, were looking into the project in Bukit Sekilau.
He said the agencies were told to look into all the documentation produced by parties involved with the land to determine whether their application for leave to clear land had been submitted to MPK.
He added that the agencies were also trying to determine whether the project required an EIA report to be tendered to the authorities.
The NST and Harian Metro had published an exclusive report on residents’ concerns on land clearing in Bukit Sekilau.
The area is now scarred, with bald patches. Residents worry about the adverse impact of the land clearing on the environment and surrounding population.
Land clearing, which increased in the past few months, turned the area into an eyesore. The bald hill is very visible from many parts of Kuantan.
Despite the movement of lorries and heavy machinery in and out of the site, residents have been left wondering what the land would be for as no notice boards had been put up on the type of project being developed, the duration of the construction or the parties involved.