Green group Sahabat Alam Malaysia has hit out at the Selangor government’s decision to continue with its proposal to degazette the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR) to make way for commercial development, warning that the move goes against the country’s international commitments and will have a heavy impact on the environment.
In a statement, the group’s president Meenakshi Raman said the KLNFR was one of the last remaining peat forests in the south of the state.
“The Selangor state’s unbending stance has to be condemned, and flies against the principles of good environmental and social governance,” she said.
She said the decision to degazette the reserve contradicts various international commitments Malaysia had made on climate change, biodiversity protection and the rights of indigenous peoples.
“As a peatland forest alone, KLNFR is a valuable carbon and biodiversity-rich ecosystem. Its conversion will lead to a high level of carbon emissions and biodiversity loss, including critically endangered plant and animal species,” she said, adding that several indigenous communities which depend on the forest for their survival would likely be affected as well.
Meenakshi said the decision also goes against Malaysia’s plans for its own development as the KLNFR qualifies as a Rank 1 Environmentally Sensitive Area under the National Physical Plan 3, which prohibits its conversion or development.
She also cited the Selangor Structure Plan 2035 which aims to ensure that at least 32% of the state remains under forest cover.
“The Kuala Langat Local Plan 2030 itself has categorised the KLNFR as a no-development zone,” she added.
She also referred to the move by the Selangor state assembly last November to unanimously pass a motion urging the state government to preserve all remaining gazetted forests in the state.
Likewise, she said, the public had also expressed objections to the proposal, with more than 45,000 objections received by the forestry department, according to her.
She cited an online petition which she said had gained some 130,000 signatures and a social media campaign called #hutanpergimana which last October tracked almost 1,500 people who had written in protest to state assemblymen.
Selangor executive councillor Hee Loy Sian had said in the assembly today that some 536.7 hectares of the KLNFR would be developed – 54% of the 931.17 hectares initially proposed.
Hee, who is in charge of the state’s tourism, environment, green technology and Orang Asli affairs, said the Selangor government had taken into consideration the objections raised in its decision under Section 12 of the National Forestry Act 1984.
But Meenakshi said the objections had not asked for a reduction in size of degazetted area.
“They demanded that the degazetting exercise to be cancelled altogether.”