By Free Malaysia Today

In a court filing at the Kuantan High Court on Wednesday, the Orang Asli said the decision failed to take into account key issues, including their dependence on the environment.

Seven Orang Asli from the Temoq tribe in Pahang have filed a judicial review against the environment Director General’s decision to approve an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for a proposed palm oil project in Rompin spanning almost 8,500 hectares.

The Orang Asli claimed that the decision breaches their constitutional right to a clean, safe, and sustainable environment under the Federal Constitution.

In a court filing at the Kuantan High Court on Wednesday, they said that the decision failed to take into account certain significant matters including their dependence on the environment, the flora and fauna which will be affected, and the wider issue of climate change.

They have sought for a declaration that the right to a clean, safe, and sustainable environment is a fundamental right under the Federal Constitution and for an order to quash the DG’s decision – which they say is “unlawful and therefore null and void”.

They said that two EIA reports on the proposed project expressly recognised that the Temoq populace and other aboriginal people living in the area will be negatively affected in relation to “water issues, noise annoyance, and air pollution”.

The Orang Asli said that the proposed project would also lead to soil erosion and sedimentation, which could affect the water quality and aquatic ecosystems in nearby rivers which they depend on.

They warned that the flora and fauna in the area will also be severely affected by the proposed plantation – which could then lead to increased cases of human-wildlife conflict.

In the filing, the seven Orang Asli said the company which filed the EIA report had held discussions with the Temoq populace. They added the company recorded its findings, including that the Orang Asli population in the area rely on forest produce as a means of income.

Apart from ancestral lands and plantations within the land, the company was also informed that the Orang Asli have spiritual and burial grounds within the land.

One of the other findings was that 85% of the Orang Asli people interviewed did not agree to the project as it would have severe negative implications on the environment.

The Orang Asli also told the company that any project in their area would seriously impact their livelihood as they depend on the forest for income and for their spiritual practices.

AmerBON, Advocates acts as solicitors and filed the suit on behalf of the Orang Asli.