The lives and livelihood of the Semai Orang Asli Community in Jelai Pahang are in danger.
With almost 2,500 indigenous people living there at one point, Pos Lanai is the dear home of a community of Semai Orang Asli families. Located in Kuala Lipis, Pahang, this ancestral land is steeped in history- The Semai Orang Asli have lived along this Central Forest Spine area connecting the Hulu Jelai forest area for hundreds of years. They have made the forest their home, and have served as guardians of the forest, mountains and rivers well before modern civilization realized the importance of the forest and its natural ecosystem to Climate Change.
Now, because of sheer corporate greed and government negligence, hundreds of Semai Orang Asli families face the threat of losing their home- and their lives.
After years of their fierce protests against encroachment, Pos Lanai is now being attacked on all sides.
Illegal logging activities threaten to destroy their ancestral land and kill one of Malaysia’s most important green lungs and ecological corridor.
Agricultural activities in Cameron highlands threaten to pollute their only water source and cut off their only channel to the outside world.
And their worst threat yet- A proposed mining project threatens to eliminate the ecosystem of a reserved forest area equivalent to 924 football fields worth of forest, force them out of their ancestral home with nowhere else to go, and poison their drinking source with lethal chemicals- along with entire districts in Pahang and Cameron Highlands.
All these consequences together create a compounded act of violence- One that tells the Orang Asli that their voices, history, and very lives mean nothing at all.
is being poisoned
Pictures of Sungai Telom, March 2021.
Agricultural activities in Cameron Highlands have been polluting the river of Pos Lanai for the past three decades.
What used to be crystal clear, clean water is now murky brown and contaminated with pesticides and chemicals. “All the fish are mostly gone; It is getting harder and harder to get food. Drinking from the river now actually makes us sick”, one of the villagers had said.
To say that the new mining project makes this worse is an understatement.
During the mining process, leaching chemicals are pumped into the forest soil in order for the targeted mineral Lathanide to be leached out. This obviously contaminates the soil and run off water from the mining area into the nearby streams and rivers.
In other words, this mining project will be contaminating the Orang Asli’s river drinking water with rare earth minerals and possibly poisonous arsenic- substances that are LETHAL. This isn’t a mere possibility- It is an inevitability that is BOUND to happen in a matter of months, once the mining project begins operations.
Have we so quickly forgotten the tragedy that happened to the Bateq Orang Asli tribe at Kuala Koh, Kelantan? Similar manganese mining in the area left several Orang Asli dead, due to poisoning of their water source.
The Semai Orang Asli don’t have much time left.
Their only channel to the outside world is being cut off
Now as it was.
The Story of the Sengoi Mission Paul D Beans , 1930’s
Their river isn’t only getting poisoned- It is also getting shallower by the day.
Cameron Highlands’ unregulated agricultural activities, along with the logging projects in Pos Lanai, have cut down trees that were necessary to hold soil. Without them, soil and sediment has flowed into Pos Lanai’s rivers, making it more and more difficult for the Semai Orang Asli’s boats to travel through them.
When their boats can no longer travel in Sungai Telom’s shallow waters, what will they do then?
How will they travel between villages?
How will they fish?
How will they travel to the outside world to get resources?
Help has no way to reach them.
Destruction of precious ancestral forests
PTG letters, approving the mining project,
Oct 2019, Nov 2020
With portions of their forests already being cut down by ongoing illegal logging, the mining project threatens to push their home to the brink of collapse.
The project is expected to clear out 660 hectares of land (roughly 924 football fields!), which will affect the lives of more than 300 families living in the area.
While developers claim that “no trees will be cut down” to make way for the mining, these claims are blatantly false.
Even if land clearing or land excavation are not executed, tree roots will still need to be removed to drill holes into the hills, in order to install pipes or rubber hoses that pump water and chemicals through the soil. This soil is then further processed in a leaching pond, causing further chemicals like ammonium sulphate and ammonium chloride to pollute the system.
So, the trees would die or be severely damaged anyway, with or without directly cutting them down. Not to mention that such technology has never been executed in a tropical forest area- The destruction would be unimaginable.
These forests mean everything to the Semai Orang Asli.
It must be understood that, for indigenous populations, land does not represent simply a possession or means of production . . . . It is also essential to understand the special and profoundly spiritual relationship of indigenous peoples with Mother Earth as basic to their existence and to all their beliefs, customs, traditions and culture.
Did you know that….
Before clearing land for agriculture, the Semai Orang Asli’s “adat tanah” requires villagers to ask permission from the guardians of the sacred forest, a role usually occupied by the community elders?
That upon entering their forests, it is forbidden to laugh or deride any animals, people, or other life within it?
The Orang Asli hold a profound respect for their forests- Their strict traditions and beliefs protect their land. They hold on to the values that mankind is a part of nature, sharing it with other animals, and not as a dominating species over nature. Heavy with sentimental attachment, Pos Lanai is a safe space for them to preserve their traditional way of life, with their own culture of death rituals, marriage practices, and beliefs of birth. With a century-worth of heritage, the land and forests of Pos Lanai are more than just a place. It is a home that belongs to them, a gift and a right promised to them by their ancestors. Protecting their forests is the essence of their culture- It shows only an inkling of how much it means to the Orang Asli, and the lengths they would go to fight for it.
Destroying Pos Lanai’s forests is more than destroying their resources. It is a profound act of violence towards the heart of the community.
With these developmental projects destroying every natural resource the Semai Orang Asli rely on to survive, they have nowhere else to go- They are being forced out.
Past cases of similar displacement (such as the Telom Dam case) have led to community rot, as Orang Asli families were forced to move to leaving their natural sustainable lifestyle to a housing area in the midst of palm oil plantations.
Their relocation to Pantos completely rips them of their resources and cultural lifestyle that they have abided by for generations. It forces them to become wage labourers when they lived in self sustenance all this while,
These encroachments aren’t a trivial matter. This is a slow killing.
This is violence.
this isn’t just a Pos Lanai problem —
THIS WILL RUIN YOUR LIVES, TOO.
Mass Water Poisoning
The proposed mining project is to take place at Hulu Jelai forest reserve - one of the areas that will be most badly affected is Sungai Telom, where the Semai orang asli source their water.
However, just like any other river, Sungai Telom flows beyond just one area;
It happens to be one of the main rivers flowing from Cameron Highlands, and serves as a freshwater source for agricultural and recreational purposes.
It is also one of the rivers that flows into Pahang River - the longest river in Peninsula Malaysia (459 km) and drains into the South China Sea.
Pahang River flows through almost every single district in Pahang and acts as important water sources for those districts as well.
This means that if the mining project is allowed to happen- if Pos Lanai isn’t saved- thousands of people living in Pahang could be drinking water poisoned with radioactive chemicals and arsenic because the river is a water source for potable water for thousands of households downstream all the way to Kuantan. Thus city folks could suffer more frequent water cuts when water treatment plants find the river water contaminated beyond acceptable limits (as we have seen water distruption in Selangor when river water gets contaminated).
That doesn’t even scratch the surface.
The presence of chemicals in the water sources will make the water unsafe for consumption- So food sources would be affected, too.
Food grown in affected areas could pose health risks if consumed. Communities that depend on fishing would face risks of mass poisoning.
Long-term exposure to cadmium and lead has shown to lead to brain damage, especially in children.
Increased sedimentation in the river will increase occurrences and intensity of flooding.
Loss of biodiversity as habitats are systematically destroyed by mining operations. Larger animals such as tigers, elephants and sun bears will intrude into human settlements as they retreat from their destroyed habitats.
The injection of so much acidic chemical waste into the soil means that it will remain unsuitable to sustain life and agriculture long after the mining operations have concluded.
This mining project will ruin lives.
Killing Malaysia’s most important forest:
Being a permanent forest reserve, Hulu Jelai is a green lung.
Destroying a green lung isn’t any trivial matter.
Leaves undergo transpiration (water evaporating from plant to air) through their leaves, increasing the surface area contributing to increased evaporation- Hence creating a cooling effect that can decrease temperature.
Forests regulate carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Thus, the bigger the forest, the more CO2 is removed, and the impact of global climate change is decreased. In tropical forests like Pos Lanai, a quarter of a trillion tons of carbon is stored in above and below-ground biomass.
This mining project happening means that we will be losing one of Malaysia’s essential absorbers of harmful greenhouse gases. This would be unimaginably detrimental to our fight against climate change.
We complain every day about how hot it gets- do you really want it hotter?
To make it worse, Hulu Jelai isn’t just a green lung- It’s also part of Malaysia’s Central Forest Spine, the most important ecological corridor for wildlife and flora in the country. This mining project will be destroying one of the nation’s most important wildlife habitats.
You could never underestimate the consequences of destroying an entire ecosystem, whose services are critical to human welfare.
You would be destroying a buffer for natural disasters like floods.
You would lose an essential source of food and medicine.
You would eradicate the barrier protecting our water sources from erosion and chemicals.
You would kill thousands of endangered animals and flora.
Save Pos Lanai
Now, a legal battle between the Pahang State Government and Jawatankuasa Bertindak Tanah dan Wilayah Adat OA Pos Lanai is ongoing- Not just for the immediate stop of the mining plan, but to protect their land against any other encroachment with a declaration that the land of Pos Lanai belongs to the Orang Asli according to their native customary rights.
There are some things that must never be touched and need to be protected. Every proposed “development project” onto the ancestral land is never for the people- It is done only to profit a small handful of corporations and state politicians. Pos Lanai is everything to Orang Asli; It is their home, history, culture, family, livelihood- All they’ve ever known.
We need to save Pos Lanai.