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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Aerial photos show devastation of logging of Orang Asli land by Kelantan govt

Orang Asli speak of bathing, drinking from muddy waters, as photos prove logging activities destroyed farm lands, disrupted flow of river waters

GUA MUSANG - Photographs of logging activities at the Kekal Balah forest reserves here poured cold water on claims by the Kelantan government that it adhered to standard operating procedures.

Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia, an NGO caring for the welfare of the indigenous people, took aerial photos of the the affected areas, which showed bare hills and felled tress being hoarded.

The photographs, which were taken with a drone, also reveal that many of the roads leading to the logging sites were just two hours away from the Gua Musang town.

FMT has learnt that about 80% of the logging activities took place in and around Orang Asli settlements.

Another NGO, Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) claims that logging has affected some 13,000 people from 17 Orang Asli settlements.

Mohd Nasir Dollah, an Orang Asli man from Gua Musang, told FMT the bare hills seen in the aerial photos were farms that once belonged to the community.

He claimed that logging had also affected the quality of the river water in the area, while the lack of tress has contributed to the degradation of river banks.

“We are forced to bathe and drink from muddy waters, as we have no choice,” Nasir said.

Other villagers FMT spoke to alleged that the water source for 17 villages has been severely disrupted due to excessive logging.

Apart from the destruction of the environment, Nasir also claims that indiscriminate logging had led to the desecration of burial grounds, such as the one located in Gua Cha.

“When we demand for answers, we are accused of lying, while authorities say we have no evidence. But we Orang Asli bury our dead in several places.”

The plight of the Orang Asli in Kelantan and the resistance they put up against loggers, came to light a few months ago when some 200 villagers formed a blockade to prevent lorries from transporting extracted timber out of the forest reserves.

The Orang Asli claimed the logging activities near their homes were adversely affecting the environment and their livelihoods.

Recently, 47 Orang Asli men were arrested over the blockade which was then demolished by the Kelantan forestry department. The men were released after being held on remand for two days.
The have since set up new barricades, with more than 200 Orang Asli folk from all around the villages in Gua Musang camped out near Parit.

By Faiz Zainudin

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