Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Logging plan 'will worsen floods'

2008/11/11 New Straits Times, Malaysia

Logging plan 'will worsen floods'

By Brenda Limbrendalim@nst.com.my

IPOH: Further logging at the Pondok Tanjung forest reserve here will only mean worse floods for residents near Tasik Bukit Merah in Kerian, as more sediment will be washed into the lake.

This was the warning from the Perak Environment Association to the state government, which recently announced plans to allow logging in the forest reserve.

"Residents there are already suffering from prolonged floods due to waters taking a long time to recede because a part of the Pondok Tanjung forest reserve was re-gazetted and the peat swamp converted for other uses," said association president Abdul Rahman Said Alli.

He said a protest letter was handed to the state secretariat yesterday. He said the wetlands in the forest reserve were needed to control floods.Rahman added that the place was also a research site for Universiti Sains Malaysia's biology faculty for the past 20 years.

He said intrusion and land-clearing would threaten the wildlife population and reduce the area's value as a research area.The Pondok Tanjung forest reserve (compartments 11, 17, 18 and 49) was one of 28 sites offered in an open tender for logging by the Perak government through the Forestry Department.

Rahman said of the 28 sites, 26 would suffer minimal impact, while the Pondok Tanjung and Kota Siam forest reserves and their surrounding areas would be greatly affected. He said Kota Siam forest reserve was 396ha and surrounded by villages, farms and estates.

"Monkeys, wild boar and tapir live in the forest reserve, which had once been the home of leopards."Land-clearing activities will also encourage illegal hunting and harvesting of forest produce.

"Rahman suggested that the Pondok Tanjung forest reserve be set aside for flood control, water catchment and wildlife protection, and that Kota Siam forest reserve be classified as an educational and research site."The association hopes that the Forestry Department will replant affected areas in both forest reserves, as well as other forest reserves of more than 1,000ha, and give them a specific classification as required under the National Forestry Act 1984.

"Without classification, forest reserves are considered as production forests which can be logged.Early this year, 1,400ha of the 7,000ha Pondok Tanjung forest reserve was regazetted and cleared for the rearing of Boer goats.Rahman is also against land-clearing activities proposed under the Matang-Kuala Sepetang Special Area Plan to set up a fisherman's wharf and establish two residential areas for fishermen and a rubbish collection centre.

"Wetlands are environmentally-sensitive areas. We need them to control floods. If the state authorities were to develop these areas, other areas should be gazetted as forest reserves, as required by law."According to association secretary Meor Razak Meor Abd Rahman, forests stretching from Pantai Remis to Lekir in Manjung had yet to be gazetted.

"The Forestry Department replanted mangrove trees in Lekir, but they didn't protect the area by gazetting it. We are worried that the trees will be cleared in five or 10 years."