,A new quarry in Gunung Baling, Kedah has allegedly started operating last week even though the preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report pointed out several major issues with the project, Sahabat Alam Sik (SAS) activist Mohd Sobri Ramlee claimed.One of the main issues is that the quarry is about 900m away from the nearest residential area when there should be at least a 3km buffer zone in between quarries and residential areas, he told Malaysiakini.This new quarry is also expected to be able to operate for 149 years, which Sobri said would not only be devastating to the villagers staying in Gunung Baling but the biodiversity there as well.In comparison, he said, the nearby Bukit Puyuh quarry operated for about 30 years before it was suspended by former Kedah menteri besar Mukhriz Mahathir. Sobri was also involved in the campaign to stop the Bukit Puyuh quarry.However, Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor told Malaysiakini that no new licences had been approved in Gunung Baling and that the area only had old limestone quarries, which have existed since the 1980s.Sanusi also cautioned that the individuals trying to highlight this issue were politically linked, not merely environmental activists.Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor “This has been a hot issue since last time, why are they only making noise now?“They just want to create a bad perception of the government of the day. We know who they are,” he said.Sanusi himself had previously said he supported the development of eco-tourism in Gunung Baling, in a video posted on Facebook in 2019.In the one and a half-minute video, he is seen standing amidst greenery with Gunung Baling and Gunung Pulai behind him. He then talked about the need to protect and preserve the rich biodiversity in the area.“Listen to the complaints of the people of Baling to protect this treasure for the next generation and improve it as a tourist destination. Don’t destroy it with stone quarries,” he had said.rrrrHowever, Sobri said upon his visit to the area, villagers there told him there had been blasting activities there since the middle of last week.He also claimed that the land the quarry is on has not had its zoning changed for quarry and mining activities.“If they continue with this quarry, the effects will be terrible on the villagers and also on the natural and historical heritage of this place.“If they continue with this quarry, Gunung Baling will be gone,” he added.Sobri said he is going to bring this issue up with the Department of Environment (DOE), as he believes the preliminary EIA report shows the quarry is not complying with environmental regulations.Meanwhile, the villagers intend to hold a protest against the new quarry, he added.This is not the first time the villagers in the area have protested against quarries. In 2019, they pushed back against a quarry project in Gunung Pulai, which is located right next to Gunung Baling.Quarrying activities were eventually stopped in Gunung Pulai as the state government at the time planned to turn it into a tourist attraction after prehistoric artefacts were discovered there in January 2020.This is also not the first time for Sanusi to face environmental issues while in state office. Earlier this month, he said that Kedah had not given any fresh logging approval since the state government came to power in May 2020. That was in response to allegations that his state government had approved the logging of 200ha of the Bukit Enggang Forest Reserve in Sik.Sanusi added that the approval for the logging in Bukit Enggang was given to Yayasan Islam Kedah in 2017 but it obtained the felling licence only at the end of last year.SA Vigneswaran Late last year, the PAS-led Kedah government also faced criticism from MIC for awarding a permit for a Kuala Lumpur-based company to prospect and extract rare earth elements in the state, which is supposedly worth RM62 billion.Fresh from a temple demolition row with the Kedah government, MIC president SA Vigneswaran had vowed to take on Sanusi, particularly on the issues of rare earth elements (REE) exploitation. “Since the state government inked an agreement with a Kuala Lumpur-based company linked to China, I want to ask how many percent (of the profit) will Kedah get?“I was made to learn that the company only offered the state government 10 percent.“If it's just 10 percent, it's a stupid agreement. So I call on the federal government not to issue a permit until this matter is made clear and resolved," Vigneswaran had said at the time.
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