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Minister finds it hard to convince Bertam Valley folk to relocate

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: The proposed relocation of residents occupying riverbanks and reserves, notably in Bertam Valley, Ringlet, is being complicated by their refusal to move to a new area.

Natural Resources and Envi­ronment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said although a new settlement could be created for the residents with government assistance, they were adamant in not wanting to move.

“So, it’s difficult for us to prevent them from becoming victims of another disaster like what happened recently. We cannot force them to move out because they have temporary occupation licences for the land they live on now.

“The issue is, they are staying along riverbanks. If they want to stay there, let them stay,” he said after presenting RM1,000 each to 33 families hit by the recent mudflood at the Ringlet community hall here yesterday.

He said he did not know who gave the locals land titles, adding that he had been trying to convince them to move into 1Malaysia People Housing schemes (PR1MA).

Palanivel explained that only the state government had the power to move the residents out, and that federal agencies could only attend to matters such as river embankments.

Earlier, during a meeting with the minister at a tree-planting programme, Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (REACH) president R. Ramakrishnan said the federal and state governments should work closely to overcome the problems here.

He said the state land administrator had the power to move anyone out of an area if there was proof of artificial silting affecting rivers.

Citing the Land Conservation Act, he said: “The entire Cameron Highlands is gazetted under this Act. The moment this is violated, they can be removed.”

Palanivel replied that he would have to consult the district officer on the issue.

REACH committee member Dr Koh Gim Lam pointed out that the RM40mil allocated for river improvement works after the 2013 floods had not been fully utilised.

To this, Palanivel said if people could move out of their homes, the Government would be better able to improve river embankments.

Federal officials present also added that private riverside landowners would have to be compensated if they were to be moved out.

-thestar

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