The biggest threat to Tasik Chini in Pekan is not the legendary Naga Seri Gumum (Malaysia’s answer to the Loch Ness Monster) but corporate activity and the greed of outsiders with vested interests.
A friend of mine who visited the 12,565-acre lake in Pahang reported some alarming developments that have left the lake a pale shadow of its former self.
Tasik Chini, awarded Unesco Biosphere Reserve status in 2009, is the second largest fresh water lake in Malaysia. But from his conversations with local Orang Asli and Felda settlers in the area reveal, my friend learned of deep-seated problems at the lake, which has five tributaries, and its surroundings.
He listed them down and sketched the sources of the problem:
- A dam built in the mid-1990s up Chini River – against the wishes of the Orang Asli – to control the water level has instead impeded the natural flow of water to the lake, affecting the movement of fish into the lake. The cleansing and regenerative action of the flow was lost, and the stagnant water led to even more problems. The water in the lake is now discoloured. The mangrove area and the famed lotus flowers took a hit.
- Fish is increasingly scarce, depriving the locals of a source of food and livelihood.
- Eco-tourism has slumped.
- Apparently, sewage and waste from a training camp in the area is a problem.
- Plantations, logging and metal mining have hurt the eco-system in the area. Bukit Ketaya, for instance, has been scarred by mining activity.
Even though the dam was later lowered, the damage had been done. UKM set up a Tasik Chini Research Centre but there is little to show from it.
With tourists now shunning the area and fish stocks declining, the residents lament their sources of livelihood have dwindled. And although the water is now more polluted, the Orang Asli still use it for their daily needs.
A whole herd of dragons couldn’t have caused as much carnage. It is time to stop all environmentally harmful activities in the area and remove the dam once and for all.