PETALING JAYA: Overdevelopment is taking a heavy toll on Fraser’s Hill, with more than 30 landslides reported there after heavy rain on Sunday.
The worst of the landslides saw 13 vehicles trapped along the Raub-Fraser’s Hill road in the afternoon.
An NGO is now warning against overdevelopment, saying the highlands’ conditions are less than ideal.
The Fraser’s Hill Nature & Heritage Society, a group aiming to preserve the resort, has asked the Pahang government if it will proceed with the construction of a 14-storey high-rise spa resort there following the landslides.
Its chairman, Nik Jassmin Hew, said landslides were common in Fraser’s Hill due to the condition of the soil there. However, she said the resort has seen more than its usual share of landslides in the past year.
While Sunday’s news headlines mainly focused on the two landslides along the Raub-Fraser’s Hill road in the afternoon, she told FMT there were about 30 other landslides that occurred on Fraser’s itself.
“While some were unable to ascend or descend from Fraser’s, there were others on the hill who were not able to go home. Some landslides were just discovered yesterday. There was even an uncle who was trapped in his house.
“Thankfully, there were no casualties. But it’s like a big warning to show that these are the conditions,” she said.
Nik Jassmin said studies have shown that the soil at Fraser’s Hill was looser and more sensitive, making it more susceptible to erosion and landslides.
“Any kind of development on a hill like Fraser’s has to be very precise and careful,” she said.
Another factor that could lead to more landslides, she said, was that the “injured” hills – hills that had previously experienced a landslide – were not being treated to prevent greater erosion. Hills could also be injured by fallen trees or vehicle accidents.
She said the drainage system was another issue, adding that it was not as well-maintained as before and that drains were clogged from the top of the hill to the bottom.
“We had people looking after the drains to ensure that they were not clogged. But these days, the drains don’t get cleared up.
“If drains are clogged, we have to see where the water is flowing. If it’s flowing onto the road, then it’s going to erode something on the road. We need to make sure that the drainage system is all right and that the hill is well-maintained,” she said.
In July 2020, two heritage buildings – the Maybank Lodge and Jelai Resort – were flattened to make way for the 14-storey high-rise spa resort with 181 rooms.
While construction on the project has has yet to start after a stop-work order was issued a month after the demolition, Nik Jassmin said this was only to make modifications to the aesthetics of the resort and not to scale it down.
“Even before you’ve started construction, disaster has struck. Take a look around you, the place isn’t suitable. This is what can happen in a downpour. So our question now is: will they be continuing with the project?
“We would like to see a new hotel on Fraser’s, but the size has to be right. Maybe whatever accommodation that’s not being used right now can be refurbished and reused,” she said.
She pleaded with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who is also the Pahang sultan, to come and see for himself the conditions of the highland and to intervene in the development.
She said the King’s intervention would be the best option as the tourism ministry and environment department had no say on the development, with the matter under the purview of the state government and local council.
“We’re not sure if the King is aware of this, but we want His Majesty to see the conditions there and how it (the 14-storey project) is just not a good idea,” she added.