Friday, 14 November 2008

More widespread logging threatens critically-endangered animals

2008/11/13 New Straits Times, Malaysia

More widespread logging threatens critically-endangered animals

KUALA LUMPUR: The critically-endangered Sumatran rhinoceros and endangered Malayan tiger face an even more uncertain future as a massive chunk of their habitat in Terengganu forests, roughly the size of 7,000 football fields, is being chopped down.

About 6,130ha in the Tembat and Petuang forest reserves in the state are being logged to make way for the Puah and Tembat dams.A Detailed Environmental Impact Assesment (DEIA), released recently, shows that the state government is proposing to log the adjacent forests, an area double the size of the forest reserves.

The ongoing and proposed logging threatens rare wildlife and risks polluting the river.The Tembat and Petuang forests reserves act as water catchment areas for Tasik Kenyir.

In a statement yesterday, the World Wildlife Fund Malaysia claimed that satellite images in the DEIA indicated that felling of the reservoir area and adjacent hills started three years ago.The DEIA stated that the catchment sites had changed by 20 to 30 per cent between 2005 and 2006 and that new logging tracks were visible.

"Evidence on the ground also suggests that logging and clearing of the reservoir area has already started prior to the approval of the DEIA."There seems to be little regard for relevant laws and the DEIA process," said WWF-Malaysia CEO Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma. The DEIA also stated that 30 per cent of the existing elephant population within the project area will be forced into nearby plantations, creating more human-elephant conflict.

"Conflict is already occurring near the Tembat Forest Reserve, with cases reported in Hulu Setiu and Hulu Nerus. "This will result in loss of revenue to plantation owners and property damages. In the long run, the government will incur higher cost for human-wildlife conflict management.

"Sharma also expressed his concern over the anticipated high erosion rate due to logging activity in the catchment areas."The kelah fish population found in rivers there will undeniably decrease. Kelah has high conservation and commercial values," he said, adding that eco-tourism activities would also be affected.

This, Sharma said, was also confirmed by the DEIA report which stated that ecotourism activities in Sungai Tembat and Sungai Terengganu Mati would be affected as high soil erosion and sedimentation affects fish biodiversity and spawning grounds."Increased siltation from logging could reduce the dam lifetime in the long run even if logging was only carried out during the construction stage of the dam.

"Forests take many years to regenerate and fully resume their water catchment ecosystem and soil protection functions," he said."The Federal Government has recognised this and that is why the National Forestry Council had directed all state governments to gazette catchment forests as water catchment forests in 2005.

"The Terengganu state government has gazetted about 49,107ha of forests as catchment forests. The Petuang and Tembat Forest Reserves, however, are yet to be gazetted as catchment forests.