Flood-hit Cameron Highlands to get 1 million trees: Malaysia environment minister

Two cars lie piled up among debris in the aftermath of a flood in Ringlet, Cameron Highlands, on Nov 6, 2014. The Malaysian government will launch a three-year programme to plant one million trees on Cameron Highlands and halt construction of ne
Two cars lie piled up among debris in the aftermath of a flood in Ringlet, Cameron Highlands, on Nov 6, 2014. The Malaysian government will launch a three-year programme to plant one million trees on Cameron Highlands and halt construction of new hotels or condominiums in the area after five people died in flash floods earlier this month. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: The Malaysian government will launch a three-year programme to plant one million trees on Cameron Highlands and halt construction of new hotels or condominiums in the area after five people died in flash floods earlier this month, state news agency Bernama reported Sunday, citing Natural Resources and Environment Minister G. Palanivel.

"A programme to plant one million trees will be activated. We are discussing with the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro Based Industry and Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water," Datuk Seri Palanivel was quoted by Bernama as telling reporters after meeting non-governmental organisations to discuss environmental issues facing Cameron Highlands.

"We do not want high rise buildings in Cameron Highlands," he added. The report did not elaborate

Massive illegal clearing in Cameron Highlands has been blamed for the flash floods that hit the area on Nov 5, which resulted in landslides and mud floods that killed five people and injured five others.

More than 203 residents from 47 families in Kampung Baru and Bertam Valley were evacuated in the incident, which caused widespread damage.

Bernama cited Mr Palanivel as saying that the tree-planting programme would be carried out in stages over three years with the cooperation of Persatuan Pencinta Alam Malaysia (MNS), Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (Reach) and Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam (Peka).

The minister, who is also MP for Cameron Highlands, earlier Sunday said villagers living along the river banks of Sungai Bertam and Ringlet would have to move out if they wanted to avoid mudfloods and flashflood in the future.

According to earlier reports, the authorities believe there are at least 6,000ha of illegally cleared land in Cameron Highlands - an area about the size of 7,500 football fields and more than three times what was allowed under a 2003 development plan.

The deadly flood has hurt the popular tourist image of Cameron Highlands, whose economy generates about RM2 billion (S$776 million) every year, The Star newspaper reported. It has a population of about 40,000 and is famed for its fresh fruit and vegetables, thanks to its cool climate.

The area gets about 30,000 visitors a week and supplies 10 per cent of the vegetables exported from Malaysia to Singapore. The supply has dropped by about 20 per cent because of the floods, said The Star.