KUALA LUMPUR - The farmers in Cameron Highlands have placed the government in an environmental bind with no easy solution in sight.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G Palanivel said Monday the constant threat of landslides and the sharp fall in tourism had to be balanced with the annual RM 2 billion (S$780 million) in exports of fresh vegetables and fruit.
"I am in a Catch-22 situation.
"Even though the land office gives them (farmers) land, they go beyond the boundaries. I have to control them but their earnings is about RM2 billion (S$780 million) in exports, so I have to balance everybody," he said.
While the vegetable farming was lucrative, it was the result of reckless farming. "And that is a major concern," he said after he was asked about Sunday's landslide in Brinchang where two people were injured.
He said the Government was looking for new plots for farmers to work on, ideally on lower lying areas as any more clearing of the hill slopes would only increase the threat of landslides sharply.
"We also cannot anger the farmers. If we anger the farmers, they will also be angry with me, because I am also the MP for that area, so I have to look for areas where we can shift them," he said.
He also admitted that the Camerons' environmental problems have chased tourists away.
"People have stopped coming now, most of them are only going to Genting Highlands," he said, adding that this had angered other constituents even as the farmers had become rich.
Palanivel said his ministry officers would be meeting with the local land office and Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob's office over land "replanning" efforts.
He said that the ministry was also looking into tree-planting campaigns for the area.