KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 —Malaysian actress Sharifah Sofia Syed Hussein, known for her wildlife and nature activism, has questioned the authorities for their silence on the potential environmental impact of a proposed rare earth mining project in Perak.
The 36-year-old who recently trekked 240km from Sungai Relau in Taman Negara Pahang to the High Court in Kuala Lumpur as part of programme called ‘A Walk For Tigers’ urged government agencies to take heed of the environmental impact of the proposed lanthanide mining pilot project that will take place in a forest reserve in Hulu Perak, Malaysiakini reported today.
Lanthanide is a rare earth metallic element that is used in industrial and medical fields.
Citing from the environment impact assessment (EIA) done for the project, Malaysiakini reported that the area is home to 11 threatened wildlife species including the endangered Malayan tiger, of which there are only 150 left in the wild.
'When you invade one’s habitat, where do you expect these animals to go? The jungle is just getting smaller and smaller. When these animals end up roaming the kampungs, you end up shooting them,' Sharifah Sofia told the news portal.
She questioned why government agencies were not speaking up, naming the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) as one of the silent ones.
'I’m surprised other agencies such as Perhilitan aren’t saying much.
'Why is it always the NGOs who are speaking up all the time? Where are the wildlife protectors? Where are the forest keepers?
'Why do the rakyat have to always voice out and fight for what’s right? Not just for the people but for the planet too,' the 36-year-old who acted in Malay films like Pisau Cukur was quoted saying.
Sharifah Sofia said it was very heartbreaking to see human greed causing Malaysian wildlife to lose their habitat.
'These people know what they’re doing, yet they don’t care about the consequences their actions will take,' she was quoted saying.
Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Saarani Mohamad previously announced the state's plan to mine lanthanide, a rare earth element used for smartphones, smartwatches, and electronic goods, to increase revenue.
He said his state government had secured the Department of Environment’s approval for a pilot project after receiving the EIA report.
However, local green group Sahabat Alam Malaysia raised the alarm.
According to the EIA, the proposed lanthanide mining will be conducted through in-situ leaching by constructing seven hydrometallurgical plants as well as establishing injection holes and piping systems.
Malaysiakini reported that the project covers 11 plots of land totalling 2,161ha or roughly the size of 3,026 football fields, that is owned by the Menteri Besar Incorporated Perak, Gerik District Office, Felcra Bhd, and the Perak State Agricultural Development Corp.
A national survey by the Wildlife and National Parks Department, WWF-Malaysia and other NGOs from 2016 to 2020 found there are fewer than 150 wild Malayan tigers remaining in Malaysian forests, down from about 3,000 in the 1950s.
The Malayan tiger population is declining at a critical level and the animal could become extinct in five or 10 years if no drastic action is taken to arrest the issue.
The Malayan tiger is a protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 and is classified as critically endangered under the International Union of Conservation of Nature's Red List for Threatened Species.
The May 6 ‘Walk For Tigers’ aimed to create greater public awareness to the effect of deforestation on the Malayan tiger in the wild, which are said to be likely to become extinct in the next 10 years.