Villagers look on the aftermath of the flash flood that affected Kampung Bukit Iboi and its surrounding at Baling, Kedah on July 5, 2022. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 13 — Following the Baling flood tragedy last month where three villagers died, a Musang King durian plantation at the peak of Gunung Inas in Baling, Kedah has come under scrutiny by both the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Department of Environment (DoE).
Local daily Berita Harian reported Kedah MACC as clearing the project of any wrongdoings based on preliminary checks, while the DoE said the company behind the durian plantation could face legal action for breaching the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval which was actually given for rubber trees.
Kedah MACC director Datuk Shaharom Nizam Abd Manap reportedly said the state MACC had looked through almost all meeting minutes of Kedah’s state executive council and also took the related documents.
While saying preliminary scrutiny of the related documents did not show any wrongdoing or misappropriation that were within MACC’s jurisdiction, he was quoted saying however that the durian plantation project could still be further investigated if new information is available.
“However, we do not rule out the possibility of continuing further investigations regarding this durian plantation project, if we receive new information that can be related to our jurisdiction,” he was quoted saying by Berita Harian.
Shaharom said Kedah MACC had also referred to the special task force’s report on the Baling floods before coming to the current conclusion, and added that Kedah MACC would now defer investigations until new information is received.
Berita Harian said there had yet to be any official reports lodged with the MACC regarding the case, and that Kedah MACC had on July 10 taken the initiative to start investigations on whether there was possible misappropriation which resulted in the massive Baling flood on July 4.
It also reported DoE director-general Wan Abdul Latiff Wan Jaffar as saying that the Musang King durian plantation has no EIA approval, as the EIA approval given in 2013 was for the planting of rubber trees known as timber latex clones for a forest plantation.
“Therefore, they did not comply with the EIA approval condition as in that report, it is only for the planting of timber latex clones,” he was quoted as saying.
He noted that legal action can be taken against the durian plantation company for violating the EIA report’s condition and violating rules under Malaysia’s Environmental Quality Act 1974.
However, he was also reported saying that the DoE has to complete detailed investigations first before deciding on the next course of action.
He also said the DoE had received an application in June for the planting of durian trees and that it was still under study, and that the DoE will be deciding within this month whether to approve this EIA application.
“Additional steps have to be taken if the EIA application for durian tree planting is approved, especially from the aspect of control of pollution,” he was quoted saying, adding that there is a need for the technical evaluation committee to hold a meeting again on this matter.
He was also reported saying the clearing of forest areas at Gunung Inas 14 years ago for plantations was never referred to the DoE.
According to Berita Harian, the permanent forest reserve at Gunung Inas was converted by the Barisan Nasional (BN) government in 2007 to the status of forest plantation.