According to Malaysian Stormwater Organisation vice-president Datuk Ahmad Fuad Embi, the 1,200 hectares damaged by irresponsible bauxite mining in Pahang could be repaired in as little as two years if proper clean-up techniques are used.
“Even the oil palm plantations (which have been turned into bauxite mining sites by the landowners) can be resuscitated and replanted within a period of two years,” explained Fuad in an interview published today.
When asked about reports from experts that land rehabilitation would take longer, Fuad replied: “I believe the land can be restored in two years if it (remedial process) is done correctly. We have to try… if we don’t try, we won’t know.”
He said that failing to re-plant in the affected soil would lead to uncontrolled erosion, leaving behind only “rocky ground devoid of any material for vegetation growth, plus a scarred landscape with vertical slopes and ridges.”
“Do we want to leave 1,200ha of land looking like that?” asked Fuad. “It will resemble a rocky desert because no plant will grow on it if the land is not rehabilitated… unless we want to wait for some 50 years for it to be naturally restored.”
Fuad explained that the ground would need to be leveled and earthworks would need to be built to stop run-off as well. “Grass or any other plants (suited to the soil conditions) can be grown first before the land is replanted with trees,” he said.
Fuad acknowledged that the rehabilitation would be costly, but he found it to be not right to leave the bill to taxpayers. “It’s unfair to use public funds to rehabilitate the land… since the landowners allowed their land to be used for the mining operations, then it’s only fair that they pay for the rehabilitation. There are reports that some landowners were paid up to RM1 million [US$238,338.46] by the miners, so why can’t they fork out RM50,000 [US$11,916.92] to restore their own piece of land?”