If Ramakrishnan Ramasamy had any advice for the Pahang government, it would be along the lines “do something about the pollution before it’s too late”.

But this would not be anything the state government does not already know.

Ramakrishnan, who heads the Regional Environmental Awareness of Cameron Highlands (Reach), said when banned pesticides were found in treated water in Cameron Highlands, it was time to recognise it as an urgent problem.

“When a study finds that severe pollution is threatening the people and yet life goes on as usual, you’ve got a problem,” he told The Rakyat Post.

Earlier this month, Reach and regional advocacy group PAN Asia Pacific (Panap) announced that pesticides, which had been banned in many countries, including Malaysia, had been found in five sites sampled.

The studies were conducted by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia at the Bertam and Terla rivers, as well as on tap water in Brinchang.

The pesticides included the deadly Endosulfan, which is a highly acute toxin and a suspected endocrine disruptor, banned in 2005 under the Pesticides Act 1974.

Ramakrishnan regretted that despite such a visible problem, no effort had been taken to address the issue.

He reckons some quarters were worried that bringing the problem to light would hurt the tourism and farming industry.

Yet, in the long run, Ramakrishnan warned that such an attitude would be detrimental to the environment and public health.

“Cameron Highlands is confronting the cumulative consequences of its more than three decades of uncontrolled rapid expansion of tourism and farming activities, with little attention paid to mounting ecological and social costs.

“We should not wait for the devastating health impact to manifest itself, such as children born with deformities.”

Ramakrishnan thinks that now was the best time for Cameron Highlands to shift away from reckless economic expansion to a more balanced form of development.

He said with the presence of the National Security Council, which is tackling problems affecting illegal migrants and farming, it would be easier to get things done.

For a start, the government must start to create better awareness and stop the use of banned pesticides among farmers, especially those with farms near rivers.

Ramakrishnan said what was needed was for the government to disseminate knowledge about the hazards of using banned pesticides.

A questionnaire survey of the farmers would help establish the extent of their awareness of banned pesticides, the number of farmers using them and the degree of usage.

The government, he added, must also provide a basis for the management and control of banned pesticides.

“If the farmers refuse to heed orders, the government must then take action by closing down farms which continue to use these banned pesticides.”

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