KUALA LUMPUR: The eviction of 50 Cameron Highlands farmers from land they operating on temporary occupying lease (TOL) is a move to deter water catchment areas from pesticide and herbicide pollution.
Cameron Highlands Member of Parliament Ramli Mohd Nor said prolonged pollution, as seen in the recent Sungai Kim Kim toxic crisis, would expose the water supply to toxins.
"We need to look into the interests of people. We have seen what happened in Sungai Kim Kim.
"We don’t want the same to happen in Cameron Highlands. If the water catchment areas continue to be polluted, then there will be fewer water supplies which can be safely consumed by the people," Ramli said when met at the parliament lobby today.
Ramli was responding to reports over an eviction operation involving 61 farms at Sungai Ichat on Feb 25.
Tanah Rata state assemblyman Chiong Yoke Kong had posted on Facebook that the second phase of the eviction covered 50 farms and would begin soon as the farmers had already been issued 30 days eviction notice.
Chiong, in protesting the move, said the farmers' TOL remained valid and the state government claim that the notice had been issued since 2009 was questionable.
He also claimed safety measures had been taken to prevent water pollution.
"I have found that most of the affected farmers still possessed valid TOL until 2014 or 2015. For example, the holder of TOL (LPS UT/KT/F-420) can show us the TOL issued by the Cameron Highlands district and land office, and was still valid until Dec 31, 2014.
"Besides that, I was informed that a dialogue session was held between the state authority and the farmers in 2009, which was attended by the former member of parliament Datuk Seri S.K. Devamany and the former Pahang exco member Hoh Khai Mun.
"The outcome of the dialogue was that farmers are allowed to continue farming at Sungai Ichat. In 2002, the Water Supply Department instructed farmers to vacate the river reserve land, namely 15 feet from river to their farms to ensure that the river is clean. A septic tank is also required to be built at every farm.
"Until today, the State Government still could not provide us with a rational explanation via an official report on pollution in Sungai Ichat."
Chiong also questioned whether the eviction was politically motivated following the Cameron Highlands by-election results.
He also claimed that the state government had failed to explain why it did not tackle the source of pollution at the upstream of Sungai Terla which provides water to Kuala Terla Water Treatment Plant.
He claimed water pollution in Sungai Terla was far more critical than that of Sungai Ichat.