Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Timber! Kedah’s crying hills keep dying

Even as the issue of extensive logging activities in Pedu and Gunung Inas in Kedah remains very much in the news, yet another hill in the state has been found stripped of its forests.

An area covering 145ha about the size of 180 football fields at the Bukit Perangin Forest Reserve has been cleared of trees for timber.

The PAS-led state government reportedly approved logging in the area more than a month ago.

The concession is believed to have been awarded to high ranking officers in the Kedah Civil Service (KCS) and the land would be re-planted with rubber trees.

It is also learnt that the state government had approved a total of 780ha about the size of 963 football fields in the same area for the same purpose.

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Mohd Johari Baharom, who visited the site over two days after being alerted by locals, was shocked by the rape of the hill.

The Kubang Pasu MP said excessive and indiscriminate logging had laid the land bare, polluting the water in Sungai Kechik, Sungai Badak and Sungai Wang Perah, which are used by locals.

The three rivers flow into Sungai Temin, which provides raw water to the Mukim Temin and Jeragan water treatment plants.

“The outcome of the logging activities will also affect farmers in Kubang Pasu, Temin, Hosba, Binjai and Malau, which are under the Muda Agriculture Development Authority (Mada),” he said here yesterday.

He said that although the logging activities were legal, it should not have been done to the extent of causing adverse environmental effects.

Mohd Johari also questioned whether the state had done an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the land clearing.

“I don't think the Department of Environment would give the green light for logging in the area.

“Although this is not a water catchment area, the state must be responsible and take care of the ecosystem,” he said.

Mohd Johari said he would write to the state government to immediately stop logging activities in the area.

He said he would also raise the matter with the Natural Resources Ministry and the Department of Environment.

“If the state government refuses to stop, we will bring the people to the place to see the ecological damage to the hill for themselves,” he said.

Meanwhile, people in nearby Kampung Wang Perah, Kampung Bukit and Kubang Betong said the wanton logging in the forest reserve area was worrisome.

Kampung Wang Perah villager Abu Bakar Salleh, 43, is sad to see the trees in the forest reserve area destroyed.

“If we do not stop it now, the damage in future could be worse,” he said.

Villager Che Tom Musa, 62, who has been living there for 45 years, said this was the first time the forest reserve area was being cleared.

“I hope the state will stop the logging immediately because we will face problems arising from the land clearing,” he said.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak declined to comment on the logging in Bukit Perangin.

“I think the Forestry Department knows about the logging activities there, so please ask them,” he said.

Kedah Forestry Department director Ku Azmi Ku Aman said many approvals had been given to logging activities in the area.

He declined further comment until he was certain about the specific area.

“We have approved many logging activities there, so I do not know the exact location of the site,” he said.

Ku Azmi said the department had yet to receive any formal complaint about logging in the area.



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