PETALING JAYA: Failure by the authorities to apply stringent protection on the environment and to regularly maintain hillslopes is an invitation to future tragedies, warn environmental groups following the latest Cameron Highlands landslide.
After two lives were lost in the incident at Jalan Simpang Pulai-Cameron Highlands, the groups said authorities must monitor all high-risk areas in the vicinity and take measures to prevent landslides or slope failures.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president Meenakshi Raman said despite the many landslide incidents in Cameron Highlands and its vicinity, clearly, not enough measures were being taken to prevent such tragedies.
"Often, we hear of landslides and slope failures happening following continuous rainfall not only in Camerons but also in other parts of the country.
"Rainfall is to be expected but that cannot be the primary cause of landslides and slope failures.
"For landslides and slope failures to happen and be triggered by continuous rainfall, there must be disturbances to the natural terrain in the area concerned," said Meenakshi, who also called on the authorities to immediately investigate the latest incident and make public the findings.
SAM is also concerned as to whether any land-clearing for agricultural activities or other developments may have taken place as these need to be halted for protective and rehabilitative steps to be taken immediately.
"With the advent of climate change, heavy rainfall with increased frequency and intensity (is expected), it is high time that our authorities act with utmost caution and strictly control development on hill lands and highlands while carrying out more frequent monitoring and firmly enforcing existing laws and regulations.
"We should halt the conversion of hill lands and highlands and strictly control existing activities. Otherwise, we will be inviting further tragedies," she said.
Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (REACH) president Dilip Martin said the landslide occurred due to heavy rain over the past month during the monsoon season.
"This is normal for the highlands, and is due to more rainfall during this period."
The Public Works Department (JKR) used to clear trees on the slope and the drainage system said Dilip but he claimed it stopped several years ago.
"They used to do it in Jalan Tapah-Cameron Highlands but no longer.
"It should be done regularly so that we can see any earth movement or else the trees on the slope will get bigger and heavier. So when it rains, for sure a landslide will occur.
"JKR has to look into this matter seriously in the Tapah and Simpang Pulai routes," he said.
Malaysian Nature Society president Prof Dr Ahmad Ismail said the soil status along the accident-prone roads should be assessed by the authorities.
"This is because landslides along the Tapah-Cameron Highlands road happen frequently, especially during the rainy season and usually in areas with agricultural activities which involve land clearing," he said.
Police have confirmed that two men – a lorry driver and a multi-purpose vehicle driver – were buried under Thursday's landslide at Jalan Simpang Pulai-Blue Valley.
The latest landslide came on the heels of another that occurred on Nov 22, which caused part of Jalan Tapah-Cameron Highlands FT Route 059 to be temporarily closed at Section 62.65 to facilitate emergency works.
The highlands, a popular tourist spot, had seen many catastrophic landslides.
The most notable tragedies occurred in the Bertam Valley mud floods in 2013 and 2014, leaving several people dead.
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