Illegal farming being carried out again in Cameron Highlands

Cameron-Highland's-regional-environmental-awareness-president-R.-RamakrishnanCAMERON HIGHLANDS: Authorities are zooming in on illegal farming and land clearing works in Ulu Ringlet which has seen more than 100 farms mushrooming in recent years, The Star reported.

Using 4-wheel-drives, officers from the Forestry Department have trekked deep into the area but it is difficult to detect such activities due to the secluded location.

The operators, mostly foreigners, have also resorted to manual labour to avoid detection.

Previously, excavators were used to clear large tracts of land but the farmers have become wiser and resorted to manual labour as the use of heavy machinery can be detected via satellite images.

Authorities have discovered that the slash-and-burn method is being used and land is being cleared on a smaller scale.

Based on a tip-off, The Star investigated several sites, including one in Ulu Ringlet, which was previously a water catchment area.

Several greenhouses and illegal structures near a hillslope about five acres in size were demolished in an operation headed by the National Security Council, assisted by enforcement teams from the local authorities.

A spokesman from the Land Office said the integrated Ops Gading 2 had resumed in March to clear illegal farming.

“There are still a few more sites and we are working in stages to tear them down,” he said.

It is learnt that the main focus in this latest operation will be around the Ringlet and Bertam Valley areas.

Last year, Ops Gading was launched to check on illegal farming and land encroachment in the highlands here.

Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highland (Reach) Ppresident R Ramakrishnan told The Star the lack of action since the last operation had resulted in the resurgence of illegal land-clearing activities.

Ramakrishnan said the illegal farmers assumed that the authorities had slowed down and began clearing land on a smaller scale to avoid detection.

“Back in 2002, there were only eight vegetable farms around Kuala Terla.

“Now, there are some 100 farms in operation,” he said, adding that according to guidelines, vegetable farms should not be on land slopes of more than 25° gradient.

Over the past weeks, heavy rain at the highlands caused silt and other sediment from the farms to flow into the water source, affecting treatment plants in Brinchang and Kuala Terla.