SHAH ALAM, Jan 21 – A group of environmentalists who had fought to stop the degazettement of 536.7 hectares of the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve area for development and gained the promise of Selangor Menteri Besar in September last year that the area will not be touched, is now seeking to speed up the regazzeting process.
They are also requesting for more transparency in matters related to ongoing projects in these forest areas, saying there is too much secrecy in dealing with projects in the forest areas, where monitoring by independent parties is next to impossible with entry into the areas denied to them.
Activist Abdul Razak, Secretary of Otai Reformasi, which was among the groups that sought to prevent the KLNFR area from being developed, says the KLNFR must be officially gazzetted again before a change of mind takes place and any opportunistic development takes place there.
The area had been approved by the Selangor MB for degazettment and validated in May last year.
The degazettement was done to enable a mixed development project which was put aside finally following strong objections.
Then, there was also the issue of the East Coast Railway Link (ECRL) project being part of the reason for continuing the degazettment of another portion of the forest area but with the plans for ECRL having reverted to the original route, there is no longer any reason to delay the regazetting of KLNFR, Abdul Razak told Weekly Echo during a recent meeting.
“Talks have been rife that there are plans to build a pipeline that will run through the forest and take up 8,5 hectares from the area, and that is why we have written twice to the MB to ask for the official information on the gazettement of the area.
“Already sand mining has been going on in the area, based on feedback from the Orang Asli people in the area,” he said.
The KLNFR comprising 8,000-year-old forests was gazetted as a permanent forest reserve covering 7,246.96 hectares back in 1927.
The encroachment over the years has reduced the forest area and any more development will be detrimental environment wise, he said.
“What we are afraid is that there could a repeat in KLNFR of what happened in Bukit Cerakah, another forest reserve area where development has taken place although there is an ongoing dispute there about the land’s status.
“The Menteri Besar must honour the promise made and there should be no development there. While the degazettement of the area was done within 3 months of its proposal but why can’t the same timeline be observed to gazette the land back.”
There must be also more transparency in the way projects in these areas are handled, he said, adding that activists are not allowed into the forest areas to even monitor any project.
“If are not allowed in, how does anyone know what is happening in these areas. Do we have to wait for floods to wash down trees and mud to streets downstream to find out about the deforestation taking places in these areas?
“The floods have taught us a lesson and we must learn from them,” he said.
Abdul Razak also said there were not many for forest reserves left in Selangor while there had been many developments in Selangor despite many unsold properties, empty shopping complexes. There has to be a balance and better planning.
He also said that many facts were pointing towards improper development and deforestation as among the factors for the disasters during the recent floods.
“Malaysia is a tropical country and rain is normal but over the years, rampant development without much consideration for trees and other natural resources that are major natural barriers for flood control has resulted in destructive floods that also cost the government money, while the people suffer,” he said.
Peatland swamps are among the major features of the KLNFR, which is also home to many endangered species, including flora such as the meranti bunga and meranti bakau, along with fauna such as the Malayan sun bear, panther and clouded leopard.
Other residents in the rainforest include the Selangor pygmy flying squirrel and the Langat red fighting fish.
Abdul Razak said a group of environmentalists and activists is also planning on submitting several proposals to the King or Yang DiPertuan Agong on Saturday (Jan 22) to seek His Majesty’s help towards better governance and management of the country’s forest reserves including a moratorium on logging for 25 years.
“Some of the states have been cutting down trees like nobody’s businesses, and this can no longer be the case. There must be some control mechanism somewhere.”
He said they would be also seeking to stop the awarding of timber licenses for members of the Malaysian royalty, currently said to be among the many timber concession holders in the country.