Several environmentalist groups have expressed anger and dismay over Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari's determination in considering the plan to degazette 931ha of peat forest in the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve to make way for development.
In an interview with Malaysiakini earlier this week, Amirudin stressed that the state government was looking to ensure that development continues in the area while still preserving an ample size of the forest and taking into account the Orang Asli communities living there.
The project, which is said to be a mixed-development, would see the state-run Menteri Besar Inc owning some 364ha of the proposed development, while the remaining 566.56ha would be awarded to Titian Jutaria, a private company with reported links to the Selangor palace.
Numerous NGOs and individuals have opposed the project, which resulted in the state government receiving more than 40,000 objections.
Global Environment Centre (GEC) director Faizal Parish, who has been consistently vocal about the matter, stressed that Amirudin's remarks show that he has not taken the objections by numerous parties seriously.
"It seems the MB is not taking objections seriously and is ignoring the motion by the state assembly," he said.
For the record, in November last year, the Selangor state assembly approved a motion urging the state government to preserve gazetted forest reserves in the state.
Amirudin told Malaysiakini that the state government will obtain a full report from the state Forestry Department on the various objections.
Aside from the objections, other factors to be considered include the reports submitted by various state agencies to a specialised committee tasked with tabling the findings to the state executive committee.
Temuan artist and activist Shaq Koyok, who hails from the area, was angered by the menteri besar's remarks.
"I feel the Selangor MB doesn't care about the Orang Asli's existence in this country.
"The Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve is where our ancestors are buried. Our original village was there.
"The forest basically is where our Temuan history started. Destroying the forest is like erasing the Orang Asli and Temuan history from the face of Malaysia," Shaq told Malaysiakini.
He said the vast swathe of affected land is just behind his village, Kampung Pulau Kempas. Another area, Bukit Cheeding, is where he attended primary school.
"The fact that he (Amirudin) seems to be ignoring the state assembly's resolution shows that the Selangor MB doesn't care about majority voices and the democratic system in this country," he added.
Shaq also hit out at Amirudin's implication yesterday that the "endangerment" level of wildlife species in the affected area had been exaggerated.
Amirudin had said that the objections relating to protecting endangered species were irrelevant as the same species can be found in other areas.
"The endangered wildlife who make that forest their home will be under threat if this stupid and greedy project is permitted. We are talking about thousands of wildlife being wiped out along with the Orang Asli graveyards," Shaq said.
Malaysian Nature Society president Ahmad Ismail also said Amirudin had downplayed the extent to which wildlife in the Kuala Langat forest is endangered.
"These are very sad comments from the MB on wildlife and their habitat.
"Maybe the Selangor state needs to have a long-term master plan so that no more forests will be degazetted," he said.
The state government, he added, must show a strong commitment to maintaining enough forested areas in the state.
Shaq insisted that the Selangor government must put an end to this ill-thought-out development, especially when the government should be focusing on the Covid-19 pandemic and rebuilding the economy, not destroying the environment.
"This development will bring nothing but disaster to the people of Selangor," he stressed.
Klima Action Malaysia chairperson Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar warned that degazetting the forest will negatively impact the climate due to carbon emissions.
"This degazettement proposal, should it go through, increases our carbon emissions and reduces our resilience to adapt in this warming climate.
"The Selangor executive branch should adhere to Motion 26, passed unanimously in the Selangor state assembly, and uphold the will of the people for transparency in forest governance," she said.
Meanwhile, Faizal said the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve had a unique natural and cultural heritage that can be found "nowhere else on earth".
"How can the MB say this is not important or can be replicated elsewhere?
"The truth is it is the best remaining peat and lowland forest in southern Selangor with more than 90 percent covered in forest and a totally unique assemblage not found in other sites in the state.
"We hope we can meet with the state government to better understand their position as to why they think objections are not relevant and endangered species are not important," he added.