SAM and Kuasa have repeatedly voiced their concerns and had called on the state authority not to excise land from permanent reserved forests.
Another forest at the hill slope of Banjaran Kledang, which was formerly part of Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve, covering 500.2 hectares located near Chemor in Mukim Hulu Kinta, Kinta District in Perak, has been exploited and destroyed since 1 November.
Based on field observations on 6 December, about 20ha of forest area have been cleared and left barren.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and Persatuan Aktivis Sahabat Alam (Kuasa) questioned whether the logging licensee in the former Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve had submitted and obtained approval of the environmental impact assessment report before the commencement of the extraction activity. (The total area of approval of the extraction licence is 151.49ha.)
The report has to be prepared and submitted according to the First Schedule, Activity 5(b), the Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities) (Environmental Impact Assessment) Order 2015 for the following prescribed activity: “Logging, or cutting or taking timber for the purpose of conversion from forest to other land use covering an area of 100 hectares or more but less than 500ha.”
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SAM and Kuasa have repeatedly voiced our concerns and had called on the state authority not to excise land from permanent reserved forests. We had proposed that the excised forest lands are re-gazetted or replaced with other land areas as permanent reserved forests, but our recommendations were not taken seriously.
In fact, the first agenda discussed during SAM’s meeting with Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu on 19 February was that the state authority should not excise any protected area especially permanent reserved forests without justification and reasonable requirement.
Although the excision of a portion of the Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve covering 500.2ha was carried out during the previous administration, the menteri besar, as the executive council member in charge of the land, forest and natural resources portfolio, should have considered its impact on environmental wellbeing. He should have re-gazetted the excised land as permanent reserved forest in line with one of the objectives of the National Forest Policy and the goals and objectives of the Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia, which aspires to have five million hectares of permanent reserved forest in Peninsular Malaysia in 2020.
The excised portion of Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve should have been protected and conserved as it is part of the Kinta Valley Geopark.
Each development plan particularly involving land conversion which is to be implemented by the state authority should refer to and consider and be in line and not inconsistent with all policies, physical planning plans, provisions and guidelines relating to the existing environment.
SAM and Kuasa hope the Perak state authority will review and refine all other project proposals that could have a significant impact on the wellbeing of the environment as contained in one of the 2018 general election manifesto initiatives.
Meenakshi Raman is president of environmental NGO Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia)