Selangor must take stand on degazettement of forests

Kua Kia Soong, TMI

Once again, we are witnessing more forests being degazetted for so-called “development”. This time, for building more highways.

What is at stake is the fate of the Selangor State Park itself with important water catchments within it. The current water crisis does not seem to have roused the two political coalitions to take a stronger stand on the Malaysian environment. They are still working within the paradigm of “indiscriminate development” to show off their ability to attract investments.

Having put up with decades of BN wanton destruction of the environment in the name of “development”, we expect a more principled stand from Pakatan Rakyat beyond pious manifesto declarations. It is ironic that we should have to lobby the Selangor state government to preserve the state park. One would have expected the politicians who have pledged to defend the Malaysian environment to refuse to degazette any part of Selangor’s gazetted forests for a highway.

The Selangor Forestry Department has announced that 106.65 hectares of four forest reserves are proposed to be degazetted to make way for the Kuala Lumpur Outer Ring Road (KLORR), also known as the East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE). This means 106.65 ha of forest, legally demarcated as “forest reserve”, will lose its status, and these forests are within the Selangor State Park.

The four forest reserves are the Ulu Langat Forest Reserve, Bukit Sungei Puteh Forest Reserve, Ampang Forest Reserve and Ulu Gombak Forest Reserve. The Ampang Forest Reserve and the Ulu Gombak Forest Reserves are part of the Selangor State Park and important water catchment forests. They form part of the crucial catchment which supplies water to thousands of households and businesses in the Klang Valley.

Having campaigned against the “development” of a sizeable portion of Bukit Sungai Putih Permanent Forest Reserve (degazetted by the state government under Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib in 1992) in the late nineties, the result is evident for all to see today – rampant housing development with more and more encroachments into the forest. An important water catchment, never mind irreplaceable flora and fauna, has been lost forever to the Klang Valley people.

Any highway built through these precious natural resources will affect the function of the forest reserve as a water catchment.

With easy access to the forest reserve, illegal encroachment into the forests will take place, as is evident elsewhere in Malaysia with our lax

Easy access will also make it more attractive for so-called “development” in the future, resulting in even more forests being cleared and more water catchment polluted or lost.

Loss of forests will not only exacerbate the water crisis but will also cause more flash floods and landslides. The highway will also fragment the forest, making it difficult for wildlife to get from one part of the forest patch to another.

Living on the edge of the Bukit Sungai Putih forest, we witness the plight of dusky leaf monkeys and other primates which have been marooned in the small patches of forest cut off from the main forest. During the eighties, a serow (a very rare mammal) was found in a drain just outside this forest because it had been forced out of its restricted habitat.