Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The threat to Tasik Chini

Once known for its clear water and lush greenery, Tasik Chini is now under threat from mining and logging activities which have already changed much of its landscape and affected the lives of the Orang Asli in the area.

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An Orang Asli woman stands with her bamboo fishing rod and a container of bait on a platform over the water of Tasik Chini, which used to be clear but is now muddied by sediment caused by mining activities.

For decades, the forest has provided the Orang Asli with their daily food and the herbs needed to treat those who are unwell. Now, though, logging activities are threatening to destroy the trees on which they depend.

The lake itself has always provided them with enough fish to supplement their daily diets.

A crane swoops low over the water of the lake, searching for its next meal. There is enough fish to go around – for now.

The calm waters mirror the blue sky above, masking for the moment the sediment which has turned much of the lake murky and brown.

Already, bare hills line much of the lake’s shoreline.

Some of the damage can be seen even from far off.

In some areas, shallow puddles surrounded by bare earth are all that’s left of the once lush greenery.

Mining equipment lies at an abandoned site, near a tunnel bored through one of the hills around the lake.

Where the water has dried up, the land lies parched and cracked beneath the heat of the sun.

An Orang Asli man waits for a fish to take his bait at a spot that is on its way to becoming a swamp.

An Orang Asli from the Jakun tribe stands beside a notice stating that the land is the customary land of the Kampung Melai villagers in Tasik Chini.

Another Orang Asli from the Jakun tribe tends to a small vegetable patch surrounded by the stumps of fallen trees.

One by one, he pulls out the weeds that grow alongside the vegetables, making sure that only the wanted plants flourish.

After he finishes with his day’s work, he returns to his small hut where he lives with his two children.

They are young, but not too young to help their father water the smaller shoots which are laid out in the shade of their hut.

Another villager untangles the day’s catch from his fishing nets which he has pulled up into his boat at the lake.

He spends his days catching fish at the lake, although his nets bring in fewer fish now than they used to.

An Orang Asli woman helps her son with his homework as they sit in the shade of a hut in Kampung Tanjung Puput, Tasik Chini.

Across the way, another villager stands at the entrance of his simple wooden house with his young children.

A group of children from the Jakun tribe smile as they lean over a railing at their village.

They spend their days frolicking in the sunlight that filters through the green leaves overhead.

The state government has put aside RM20 million for the replanting of trees around Tasik Chini, but the new trees will take time to grow. In the meantime, the Orang Asli must do what they can to get by.

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