iSpeak: Preserve Forests for our Children

By A. Jeyaraj

We only see about ten per cent of a limestone hill which is above the ground, the rest is underground; likewise, the destruction we see in Kledang Hill is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of damage done. And what about elsewhere? Destruction of the forest has taken place and is taking place in many places in Perak; some legally and many illegally.

After attending the briefing on Rehabilitation of Kledang Hill, I followed members of civil societies to Pusing to see the condition of the 400 hectares of forest planned to be developed. The map of the area published in 2010 by Forest Department says the area is Primary Forest; however, the map issued in 2017 states the area is Tanah Miskin or degraded forest.

We noticed the place is still Primary Forest with hardly any degradation. Aerial view of the forest canopy from a drone looked like broccoli, one of the indicators to show that it is Primary Forest. It is a dense forest untouched by man. Are officers from Forest Department willing to visit the place with members of NGOs and prove it is degraded forest.

While we were at the location, we noticed that work was being carried at the top of the hill below us. Smoke was seen. What are enforcement officers of the Forestry Department doing? Meor Abdul Razak, field officer of Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) or Friends of the Earth, who was with us said that the people who were encroaching the hill must have come from the other side.

A confidential letter was written to a company (name of company blanked out) dated December 14, 2018, from Forest Department has given a permit to the company to develop the land. Why must this be confidential? Any justification? The public should be informed of government activities and not work under secrecy. We changed the government for the sake of transparency.

Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu was quoted as saying that NJ Development Sdn Bhd, the company that was awarded 400-hectare land concessions was chosen for its ability to carry out forest farming. The company’s directors have vast experience in forest farming development. Did he check out with other companies to make the claim? PH government policy is to award contracts on an open tender basis. Who negotiated the contract? Is our MB ignorant of this?

The public is not so gullible to accept the MB’s explanation. Our MB has the blessing of Tun M and must keep up his reputation. If what the MB says of the Company is true, then he must justify it by making public:

1. Company profile

2. Names and particulars of key personnel

3. The expertise of key personnel, the projects they have done

4. Track record of the company; list jobs done locally and overseas.

5. Provide details of work to be done

6. Cost and duration of the project.

I hope the above is not under OSA. When I worked for Brunei Shell, everyone had access to particulars of the contractors and staff are free to visit and inspect contractors’ office and site.

If MB fails to do this then he would lose his credibility and Perakians must report to Tun M of the integrity of our MB and suitability of him holding the post. We voted for PH to be transparent and not sign deals behind closed doors.

I tried to contact Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, former MB of Perak to get his comments on the above but was not successful. I handed a letter to UMNO office asking them to pass it to Zambry. No response till submission of this article. I suppose he must have been doing the same. Kettle can’t call the pot black.

About 800 hectares of forest land near Simpang Pulai where Orang Asli are staying is to be developed as Timber Latex Zone. Orang Asli are not aware of the project. It is their land and their permission should be obtained.

According to the letter from SAM to MB, dated 12 February 2019, five plots of Permanent Forest Reserve land have been re-gazetted to Forest Reserve by the present government. The move was initiated by the previous government, but the current MB should not have signed blindly without making an investigation. I am told that normally the land status is listed as Forest Reserve, but Land Use can be for plantation or housing. So the forested area reported by the government is not accurate; actual coverage is less.

When there is re-gazetting of land in Selangor, public hearing is held to get feedback from the people. Why is Perak not doing this? Why the secrecy?

According to SAM, mangrove trees in Manjung have been destroyed. Mangrove trees act as a buffer during a tsunami and reduce devastation and erosion. There is also encroachment of forests around Bukit Merah Lake City.

You can have a good view of Kledang Range from the 10th floor of MBI building or 4th floor of Tun Razak Library. I have noticed the vegetation has been destroyed in many places, especially at ground level due to natural causes and also by deliberate clearing. The Forest Department must restore the vegetation before irreparable damage is done.

Tun M has cancelled a number of contracts, likewise, our MB must re-evaluate contracts signed by the previous government and himself and cancel those that would destroy the forest in the name of development. Don’t keep on blaming the previous government, when you are doing the same.

We are only guardians of the forest and have to preserve it for our future generation; we have no right to destroy them. Once gone, they are gone forever. There is no Plan B here.

There are other means of making money; our MB can legalise gambling and red light districts to generate income. These evils are reversible and definitely better than destroying the forest.

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