The controversial de-gazetting of the north Kuala Langat forest reserve is reported to have been deferred after Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari met with the PKR leadership recently.
While people who objected to the de-gazetting may heave sigh a relief, it may be a temporary one and therefore the development proposal is still worrying to them. It remains to be seen how long the postponement would last.
Furthermore, Amirudin should in the first place have listened to the grouses of the people who protested against the project. He is accountable to the people.
According to the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism, there were 45,423 objections from the public (including environmentalists), 130,000 signatures in online petitions, and almost 1,500 emails sent to Selangor assembly members to express opposition. No small objection here.
It left a bad taste in the mouth when the government had in a hushed manner de-gazetted 54% of the north Kuala Langat forest reserve as a permanent reserve last May – an action that mocked the principles of transparency and accountability that are supposed to be the hallmark of a Pakatan Harapan government.
The shroud of secrecy over the de-gazetting by Amirudin did not help to allay fears or defuse tension.
That the size of the forest reserve to be converted for development was reduced from 931.17ha to 536.7ha – as a result of the public protest – was no comfort to the people.
The reserve, which is said to consist of an 8,000-year-old forest, was originally gazetted as a forest reserve in 1927 covering 7,246ha. Only 957ha reportedly remain today.
A huge amount of treasured biodiversity would be drastically reduced by the expressed desire to develop this environmentally sensitive area, with the result being an increase in carbon emissions.
Equally disturbing, the development project would also endanger wildlife that has made the forest its home. Much wildlife is expected to be wiped out.
The state government reportedly argued that the lost gazetted area in the forest reserve could be “replaced” in Sungai Panjang, Broga and Hulu Selangor, which is erroneous. This is not a block of concrete jungle that can be substituted with another.
Indeed, the environmental richness of this forest reserve cannot be matched by the profits that were envisaged to be reaped by whoever the capitalist-developers are. Damaged environment is not the kind of legacy that should be passed on to our children and their children.
As in many cases of development projects encroaching into forests in the country, the development proposal in the north Kuala Langat forest ron the fringes of the forest. They are said to have inhabited the forest since 1886.
Expressing concern over the fate of the forest reserve, Umno Youth deputy leader Shahril Hamdan reportedly suggested that the federal government might have to force the Selangor government to hand over the reserve so that it could be preserved.
This, he added, could be done under Article 83 of the Federal Constitution, under which the federal government is expected to pay compensation to the state.
While his concern is laudable, it sounds somewhat rich coming from someone whose political party and its allies are generally not known to be environmentally friendly, judging from what has occurred in the states they govern, such as Pahang, Kedah, Kelantan and Sarawak.
The loud objections of the people should not fall on deaf ears. The precious forest ought to be left to live peacefully. – The Malaysian Insight, 2 September 2021
Update: The Selangor state government has finally announced that the development project would be cancelled.