Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Natural Disasters? Civilisation Altered

The resettlement of the Sungai Ruil Orang Asli of 152 semi-detached houses and five community homes were completed early this year, done by the Public Works Department after their village was hit by a massive landslide on Aug 7, 2011. The RM50-million project on a 26.3-hectare site benefited about 900 residents from the Semai tribe was witnessed by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on the 28 August 2016.

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, is situated between 1300m and 1829m above sea level. The name synonymous of fragrant highland that resembles the English highlands, cooler compared to the temperate lowlands. The breeze is freshened by eucalyptus, fuzzy tea plantations roll into the distance and strawberry farms under huge awnings.

This fresh climate beckons convoys of visitors to pick strawberries and sip tea each weekend. Tourism is big business, especially with buildings inspired with colonial characteristics, so do expect quiet contemplation to be interrupted by the din of building sites, and hilltop views occasionally obscured by mega resorts.

Cameron Highlands first became my family’s retreat back in the 1993 and we make it a yearly family vacation. Lush unexplored jungles, green hilltops and captivating views of nature. Then development catch on the tourism big apple, spiralling to trickle cash into their coffers. The vegetation of Cameron Highlands too rallied in. Chemical induced fertilizers became rampant by some farming communities.
News flash! Landslide surmounted the indigenous people community at Kg. Sg. Ruil, Cameron Highlands. And my family had barely comforted ourselves at home two weeks earlier from the stricken area. Then in October 2013, caught unaware despite numerous calls for hill slopes and green lungs controls, Mother Nature wreaks it’s wrath on this beautiful resort site; mud flood in the wee hours of midnight, claimed 4 lives. In 2014 another mud flood took place with 3 lives lost and 5 injured.

A study carried out in 2011 employing measurements of livelihood sustainability of indigenous people (Orang Asli) at Kg. Sg. Ruil located at a tourist belt of Cameron Highlands, Malaysia developed by the United Nations Development Program.

The result indicated the development of tourism has impacted the Orang Asli; their human assets, financial assets, physical and social assets. Though it appears minimal and disrupted to their livelihood sustainability, it is a threat to be reckon and addressed immediately from recurrence. Let alone the tourism, the plantation but Cameron Highlands and its population entirely.