Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) urges the relevant authorities to take stringent action against anyone who had encroached and illegally carried out agricultural activities in the Bukit Merah Lake Reserve, District of Kerian, Perak.
SAM’s investigation found that the Bukit Merah Lake Reserve was encroached and trees felled illegally since more than 12 years ago and planted with oil palm. We are concerned of the current situation here that is increasingly alarming.
Encroachment and illegal agriculture activities in the Bukit Merah Lake Reserve could affect the water level in the Bukit Merah Lake, impacting irrigation of rice bowls in the Kerian District and South Seberang Prai, Penang covering approximately 24,000 hectares.
The water from Bukit Merah Lake is also used for domestic and industrial purposes, supplying more than 200,000 residents in the District of Kerian and part of Larut Matang and Selama District in Perak
The Bukit Merah Lake Reserve is not only an important source of water supply to the Bukit Merah Lake but functions as flood control because a large portion of the reserve area is wetlands and lowlands, which act as flood plains.
In November 2011, the relevant authorities had issued a statement through the media to explain the issue after SAM highlighted it.
The explanation given by the Kerian District Officer differed to the clarification by the Kerian District Engineer of the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID).
According to the explanation by the Kerian District Officer in the Harian Metro Adu@metro column dated 29 November 2011, the State Government through the Kerian District and Land Office will implement the Rancangan Tanah Berkelompok (RTB) in Pondok Tanjung near the Bukit Merah Lake Reserve.
On the other hand, the DID Kerian District Engineer explained that the department does not support and allow any development on the Bukit Merah Lake Reserve because the lake ecosystem has to be protected and ensure its functions are not affected.
According to the DID District Engineer, the department does not have the power to prevent encroachment and illegal activities at the Bukit Merah Lake Reserve although the Department is responsible in monitoring the reserve.
Based on the Plan Sheet of the National Survey and Mapping Department: No 377; – (GN 3319 of 1914, GN 1463 of 1919 and GN 8279 of excision), the area was gazetted as the Bukit Merah Lake Reserve.
In fact according to the Lembah Beriah Local Plan, the area is part of a water catchment area.
The activities to exploit the Bukit Merah Lake Reserve is clearly not in compliance with the Guidelines for Planning, Conservation and Development of Environmentally Sensitive Areas prepared by the Department of Town and Country Planning (refer to: GP007-A (2) – Floodplain, Wetlands, former Mine, Lake and River and GP007-A (3) – Water Catchment and Groundwater Resources).
The exploitation and destruction of the Bukit Merah Lake Reserve (conversion of land use from forest and natural terrestrial area to other land uses), exposes the soil surface to excess runoff during heavy rain.
This will lead to siltation, sediment deposition and other runoffs into the Bukit Merah Lake.
Hence SAM hopes the relevant authorities will enforce the legal provisions relating to encroachment and illegal exploration of government land and other land reserves in accordance with Section 425 of the National Land Code 1965.
The concerned authorities at both the district and the state levels must also refer to and comply with the policies and pre-existing physical planning when reviewing proposed development involving land-use conversion.
S.M. MOHAMED IDRIS