Last week, Utusan Online, a Malaysian news service, made a return trip to a Batek community that the paper had visited a year ago while reporting on logging in the nearby forest. The story published last week is an update to the three articles carried by the paper in January 2014.
Many of the Batek in the community, whose lives were disrupted by the logging and clearing of the land 12 months ago, have moved away. The logging, according to one of the reports in January, had just taken place during the previous two months, and according to the newspaper story last week, it still continues near the Taman Negara National Park, called locally Kuala Koh National Park.
During the most recent visit, the reporter found that only 37 Batek families remain in the village at Kuala Koh, about half of the 70 families living there at this time last year. Hamdan Yam, whom the paper identifies as the headman of the village, told Utusan Online that conditions have deteriorated from what they used to be like.
Things used to be quiet, and the people derived their subsistence from the nearby forest. Now, many have migrated to Tasik Kenyir, a resort area developed around an artificial lake 20 miles northeast of Kuala Koh, to earn money.
The reports nearly a year ago and the one last week indicated that the Lebir River at Kuala Koh is now frequently polluted. Anglers who try to fish in the river find the water quite turbid after a rain. The Kuala Koh section of Taman Negara National Park is being increasingly visited by foreign tourists, the reporter was told, but the development activity next to the park threatens the natural environment as well as the lives of the Batek.