ANYONE with a hint of green credential in their CV would immediately think of more than just tea and strawberries at the mere mention of Cameron Highlands.
How about floods and landslides? The holiday `hotspot’ that should play host to Donald Trump once he tires of retiring to the distractions of Mar-a-Largo every other weekend has indeed suffered its fair share of natural disasters.
I became the Director General of the Department of Mineral and Geoscience Malaysia (JMG) in May 2017. One of my tasks at the turn of the new year 2019 requires me to make numerous trips to Cameron Highlands.
In fact, I have made three trips within the first two weeks of the new year in the course of duty and am getting to know the lie of the land more closely with each visit.
Mention Cameron Highlands and those not with any green disposition can only think of one thing and one thing alone – disasters in the form of floods and landslides.
Landslides are a growing global threat and has been destroying lives and property of humankind. It is caused by the interplay of various natural and anthropogenic factors.
The most common natural causes of landslide include geological, morphological and physical factors.
Landslides are a common occurrence and recurring problem for Cameron Highlands, which still retains its popularity as a hill station and tourist destination for locals and foreigners alike.
The recurring issue has received the attention not only by JMG but also the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail who had conducted a one-day working visit to the area on January 3 2019 which incidentally was my birthday.
This visit was a follow-up to the Cameron Highlands Rehabilitation Joint Action Committee meeting which she co-chaired with the Menteri Besar of Pahang, Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy bin Wan Ismail, on 27 December 2018.
I had the pleasure of accompanying the DPM together with the Director General of the Malaysian National Security Council (NSC), Engku Hamzah Tuan Mat during the visit.
The JMG is the government agency that has the authority and expertise to lead the investigation, services and research in the field of mineral and geoscience in the country.
The department provides consultative and advisory services to government agencies, the private sector and individuals.
Currently, the department is listed as a member of more than 57 technical committees in the country, including the committee led by the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA), Special Committee for Dam Structure Safety Management, and several state level committees related to geo-disasters, such as the State Disaster Management Committee, Environmentally Sensitive Area Committee, as well as the Highland and Foothills Development Committee.
Accordingly, the department has taken proactive measures to prevent or reduce landslide incidents in the Cameron Highlands by conducting a comprehensive study on disaster risk reduction on landslides in Cameron Highlands, including slope hazard and risk mapping.
The slope hazard and risk mapping in Cameron Highlands were conducted with the following purpose:
i. To produce slope hazard and risk information in the selected areas for the local authorities for better slope management
ii. To provide a conceptual proposal and cost estimation for mitigating and strengthening high risk slope
iii. To assist government agencies and local authorities in land-use planning towards a sustainable land use management; and
iv. To develop geospatial infrastructure for national geological terrain and slope information.
During the tour – the DPM had the opportunity to get an aerial view of the vast tea estates, vegetable, flower and fruit farms as well as what’s left of the forest cover and water catchment areas within the Cameron Highlands region.
I had also briefed the DPM on the progress of mapping dangerous slopes carried out by JMG at the highlands, and showed some of the critical slopes that are prone to landslide occurences, slope rehabilitation work that has been emplaced at the Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Tiang in Lembah Bertam as well as the illegally-developed vegetable farms in Post Terisu in Terla.
The visit also included a lunch meeting with vegetable farmers associations at the Casa Dela Rosa Hotel in Tanah Rata for a valuable exchange of views as well as a meet-the-people session with the Cameron Highlands Orang Asli community in Kampung Sungai Ruil.
No doubt there will be many more visits to Cameron Highlands to come within the coming weeks.
In the next instalment, I will share how the Government in particular JMG plans to arrest incidence of landslides in particular exposed slopes that would make Cameron Highlands not only productive but safe as well.
* Datuk Shahar Effendi Abdullah Azizi is currently the Director General of the Department of Mineral and Geoscience Malaysia (Jabatan Mineral dan Geosains Malaysia – JMG).
** The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Astro AWANI.