By INS Contributors

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--The proposed mining project by the Pahang state government in the area near Tasik Chini must be stopped to prevent the loss of a lake with a long cultural and historical heritage, a Malaysian environmental group said.

The Association for the Protection of the Natural Heritage of Malaysia (PEKA) said  the state government would be forced to bear the cost of ensuing natural disasters in the aftermath of the mining, in a statement.

PEKA president Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said the lake already suffered from poor management, with the proposed mining project feared to lead to its further environmental degradation

“PEKA Malaysia is of the opinion that the pollution and disturbance of the hydrological ecology happening now can lead to natural disasters. For example, pollution of high areas around lakes can cause flooding when it rains down heavily as reported the previous year. Natural disasters like landslides can occur when upland areas have been cleared for the purpose of logging and subsequently mining.

“Although the mine is 3km from Lake Chini, it will still contribute to local environmental imbalances. Before any mining is started, the forest trees will be cut down which at the same time will result in a sudden release of carbon dioxide. The oxygen gas content will also be disturbed,” she said.

Sabrina also expressed concern that water pollution and mud floods would result from the mining activities, with waste entering tributaries and harming the wildlife in the area besides degrading the lake as a natural heritage site and killing off tourism in the area.

The 5,085-hectare body of water is the second largest freshwater lake in Peninsular Malaysia and is made up of a series of 12 lakes. Chini River, which drains from the lake, flows into Pahang River and is one of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status sites in Peninsular Malaysia.

It features prominently in local legend and folklore, and is said to be inhabited by a dragon called the Naga Seri Gumum (sometimes referred to as "Malaysia's Loch Ness Monster"). Other stories speak of an ancient sunken Khmer city at the bottom of the lake.

Media reports have revealed that the mining company involved is linked to the royal family of the state, with the concession of the latest mining project, which is focused on extracting manganese and other minerals over a period of two years.

Resource-rich Pahang has been the site of various environmentally damaging industrial activities from large-scale opening mining of bauxite to the controversial rare earth operation of Lynas, which has necessitated the construction of a permanent waste disposal facility to bury toxic waste resulting from its operations.