Don’t call it ‘Act of God’, green group tells Sanusi

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Don’t call it ‘Act of God’, green group tells Sanusi

A green group says incessant clearing of parts of Gunung Jerai caused the mud floods in Singkir, Yan, which affected 700 homes in the Kedah coastal town yesterday.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), in a joint statement with the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) , showed satellite pictures of hill clearing in two reaches of the Gunung Jerai range, which they feel were contributing factors to the mud floods.

The Kedah menteri besar, however, said the incident was due to natural causes after heavy rain on top of Gunung Jerai caused a river there to overflow, bringing mud and debris to villages at the foot of the hill.

Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor refuted SAM’s assertion that Google Maps photos suggest clearing of the hills, saying the images were “over four years” old and were unreliable.

He pointed FMT to a Facebook posting by a Yan native and victim of the floods, who said the hill clearing pointed out by SAM and CAP was “completely off”.

Yusof Farhan, in a series of posts said the cleared areas were not for logging as alleged by many but for agrotourism purposes. He also touted Yan to be the future mass producer of Musang King durians.

What is ‘fenomena kepala air’, SAM asks MB

Google Earth image shows a clearing in Singkir, Yan, and another near the Tupah recreational forest in Merbok. (Maxar Technologies/Google Earth pic)
SAM president Meenakshi Raman stood by her earlier remarks on the images of hill-clearing, saying the aerial photos were taken recently, the latest in March for Tupah and the earliest for Singkir being taken in 2019.

She said Kedah’s “fenomena kepala air” (water column) description for the cause of the floods was not grounded on science and urged Sanusi to provide an expert explanation on what took place.

Meenakshi said the state could not carry on allowing activities in sensitive forests given the massive floods and the advent of climate change bringing different weather challenges.

“We need to respect nature, recognise its limits and take appropriate mitigating and preventive measures immediately.

“You can’t call something just a burst of water or “kepala air” phenomenon when logs, mud and all sorts of jungle debris are scattered across Singkir, Merbok and Gurun.

“Please tell us what are the contributing factors to the burst of water and hold an independent inquiry into the incident.

“It is a grave warning, and the menteri besar must act and not view this as an act of God,” she told FMT.

Meenakshi said the hill clearing was carried out by companies that had been given permission by the state. although the Yan district local plan prohibited it.

She said 15 years ago, SAM and the villagers of Bukit Singkir, Yan, objected to a quarry project on the Jerai hill range, but it was allowed despite it being in clear violation of the Yan local plan.

Meenakshi said what went on was a continued violation of the local plan, with plenty of forest areas being cleared.

Checks on SAM’s description of the location on Google Earth showed a cleared site near Singkir on the southwest of the Jerai range, and another near the Tupah recreational forest.

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At Singkir, 24ha perched at a height of 160m was found barren, with historical imagery showing the site was uncleared until 2019.

At Tupah, a 35ha clearing has grown in size since it was cleared in 2013, historical imagery on Google Earth shows.

Yan villager Yusof Farhan’s claim of a water column from the hill was 4km north of Singkir, where he said two rapid streams of water came from the summit of Jerai in the east.

A Kedah disaster situation report today showed that the areas mentioned by SAM and Yusof were not spared from yesterday’s flash floods.

Yan and the neighbouring towns of Merbok and Gurun were also inundated in yesterday’s massive deluge.

Three people have died in Yan and four remain missing. At least 1,000 homes were flooded by waters of 0.2m to 1.5m high, authorities say.

A major clean-up operation in the district of Yan and Kuala Muda is being carried out by the Kedah government as waters have receded, with the state declaring it a disaster zone. FMT

Don’t call it ‘Act of God’, green group tells Sanusi

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