Questions of an agricultural future for Pahang’s Bukit Goh have been answered for at least one local farmer according to an interview in a Malaysian newspaper.
Surin Deris, a 68-year-old farmer and first generation settler in Tanah Rancangan Pemuda (RTP) Bukit Goh, has a plot full of banana trees, cassava, oil palm, sweet potatoes, lemongrass, and other locally-grown plants. Each of the plants in his tract was planted since the bauxite mining moratorium went into effect.
“Bauxite mining was stopped in October, last year. They had removed the top soil and dug holes (for removing bauxite) and in December, I started planting bananas.” He went on to explain that miners worked three of his five-and-one-half acre plot.
“Since planting these plants. I only water the small palm trees while the banana trees and cassava still survive even in hot weather despite being rarely watered,” he explained.
Surin said he decided to plant banana trees when he noticed other non-cultivated trees taking root on the grounds.
“Many have said, former bauxite mined land are infertile. But I feel, if forest trees can grow, what if trees are deliberately planted and cared,” he said.
He said that he’s been approached by several researchers interested in conducting studies on the land in order to determine the nature and extent of bauxite pollution.
“However, until now I have yet to be contacted (to know the results) from them (researchers),” he said. Surin went on to say that it was important for Bukit Goh settlers to read and understand the agreements they sign with bauxite operators. He says it is also important that the contracts describe precisely what mining methods are to be used and which party is responsible for cleaning up after mining operations cease.
“If not reclaimed, it will cause a huge hole and become a pool of water during heavy rain, therefore it is important for land owners to have knowledge of their land and at the same time look through the agreement made with bauxite operators,” he said. “The settlers do not have machinery and equipment to perform such works. It is important to be careful and not be blinded by the promise of money by bauxite operators,” he said.