Saturday, June 4, 2011

Treading the Cool but Dangerous Waters of Lenggong Valley

Yesterday it was reported that the deadly leptospirosis bacteria has been detected in a stream outside the Botanic Gardens in Penang, prompting the state government to advise the public to keep clear of the waters in the area.

With two out of three samples taken from the stream in April tested positive for the bacterial contamination, there is much cause for concern not only in Penang, but also elsewhere in Malaysia, where there have been scattered reports of leptospirosis contamination since last year.

The leptospirosis and melioidosis contamination have thus far claimed many lives, with eight deaths in the vicinity of Lubuk Yu near Maran, Pahang June last year.

At about the same time last year there was a similar scare at the Desa Rimba National Service Camp near Lenggong in Perak. Although the water from the stream and pond that flowed through camp was tested negative for leptospirosis, nevertheless the fear has been fixed in the minds of the people.

The same happened to the water at the Junaco Park National Service camp and the lake at Taman Permai in Sibu, Sarawak. Both were reported to have been contaminated with leptospirosis bacteria.

For folks in the once environmentally-pristine area of Lenggong Valley, the big question is “what’s happening to our beautiful waterfalls?”

A visit to the lush ambiance of the Lata Kekabu waterfall in Lenggong recently was met with a stark reminder in the form of a notice put up by the State Health Department absolving itself of liabilities and warning the public that the water may be contaminated.

There have never been any reports of infection linking the water of Lata Kekabu, but then again the Desa Rimba National Service, where a similar scare was reported last year is located not far from the area.

The water that cascades within the muted lush ambiance of Lata Kekabu come from the hills which form part of the Bintang Hijau range. Except for some work camps for oil palm workers and an abandoned tea plantation overlooking the sleepy town of Lenggong, there is no evidence to point to human causation of the leptospirosis scare.

So, what gives?

To the authorities, rest assured that this writer is not about to put full blame on any of them. However, blame must be had for a solution to be found and eventually addressed.

The experts at the Health Ministry had pointed to the irresponsible and rampant disposing of leftover picnic foods and the lack of civic consciousness to keep picnic sites, especially those near mountain streams and waterfalls clean.

Legitimate argument that but it goes back to the will of the authorities to seriously address this lackadaisical attitude of folks who frequent the areas.

A more intensive campaign should be mounted to drill-in the need for more responsible attitude with regards to this.

An integrated campaign involving the Health Ministry, Forestry Department, schools and even the Jabatan Agama Islam is needed. Give it a go and who knows what we can achieve to save this planet – no, to save Malaysia!

Incidentally, for Perak Tourism who proudly promote the lake district of Hulu Perak and the waterfalls in the state, what is the use if each time people are drawn by the colourful superlatives in the state tourism brochures they all but tread with trepidation in the dangerous waters of the silver state?

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