The Coalition for the Protection of Selangor Forests (CPSF) is calling for urgent action against the Selangor State Agriculture Corporation (PKPS) for clearing part of the 308ha peat swamp forest in the Sungai Panjang Forest Reserve.
The forest land was recently gazetted to partly “replace” the Kuala Langat (North) Forest Reserve (KLNFR).
This controversial move is being reassessed and a 'stop work' order was issued earlier this year following land-clearing efforts in the Sungai Pangai Forest Reserve.
The proposed development of the KLNFR has come under the spotlight again after the Selangor government revealed it de-gazetted half of the reserve.
Following widespread backlash over the de-gazettement, Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari was summoned by his party to explain the matter.
According to PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil, the menteri besar agreed to “postpone” the de-gazettement but Amirudin himself has yet to come forward to confirm the matter.
What is confirmed is that Amirudin has now been mandated by Selangor Pakatan Harapan to bring the matter to next Wednesday’s (Sept 8) state executive council meeting for more discussions.
In the meantime, the CPSF is aghast that work is proceeding in the Sungai Panjang Forest Reserve despite the stop-work order.
"To justify the de-gazettement, the state government claimed the KLNFR was very badly degraded, with 'no tall trees remaining'.
"The state also proposed the degazetted area would be “replaced” by gazetting new forest reserves containing 'land of equivalent or higher value or better forest'," said the CPSF.
It said the largest of the three new forest reserves gazetted - the Sungai Panjang Forest Reserve - is located on peatland in the Sabak Bernam district about 100km from KLNFR.
The new forest reserve covers 308ha, said the coalition.
It added that information from the state government showed that the Sungai Panjang Forest Reserve contains high-quality peat swamp forest.
The information, they said, was displayed during a public hearing session on the issue in Pulau Carey on Sept 29 last year.
However, the CPSF said a statement by the state government made at the state assembly, that there are no tall trees in the KLNFR, is not accurate.
"The area to be degazetted in KLNFR is dominated by forests of tall, diverse, rain forest trees of critical conservation importance and must be conserved.
"But instead the PKPS, chaired by the menteri besar, has not once, but twice, destroyed, during attempted development of agriculture schemes, portions of the forest, now designated as Sungai Panjang Forest Reserve," it said.
According to the CPSF, the PKPS is currently facing legal action by the Department of Environment (DOE) for clearing the forest without having first undertaken an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
"In April 2021, CPSF highlighted the clearing of the forest in Sg Panjang by PKPS to develop the land for the Selangor Smart Agriculture Park (SSAP) project which began in February 2021 without prior preparation of an EIA.
"The DOE conducted site inspections and issued a notice of instruction to PKPS on April 8, 2021 to stop any site clearance work as described under Section 31, Environmental Quality Act 1974 (Act 127).
"On April 12, 2021, DOE also issued a prohibition order for activities prescribed under Section 34AA of the same Act.
"In a press release issued on April 15, 2021, DOE clarified that no EIA report was submitted by PKPS to DOE as required under Section 34A (6), Environmental Quality Act 1974 for the implementation of the Selangor Smart Agro Park (SSAP) project," it said.
An EIA is mandatory under EIA Order 2015 for all projects proposing to clear and drain more than 20ha of peat swamp forest for agriculture or other uses.
The CPSF said despite receiving a stop-work order on April 8, 2021, PKPS continued to clear the site until May 2021.
It said it was very alarmed by the developments and called for four immediate steps:
Immediate revocation of the de-gazettement of 536.7ha of the KLNFR, returning it to its original size.
Legal action to be taken against PKPS for clearing the peat swamp forest without EIA approval and continuing to clear the forest after receiving a stop-work order.
Investigate claims by the Selangor state government that there are no tall trees in the KLNFR.
Selangor MB and exco to conduct a site visit together with CPSF and the local Orang Asli to see for themselves the quality of the forest cover in KLNFR especially the 537ha degazetted area.
Yesterday, Selangor Crown Prince Tengku Amir Shah Sultan Idris Shah denied any links to the current developer who has the rights to develop half of the KLNFR.
The rights are currently held by Gabungan Indah Sdn Bhd, a little-known company set up in November last year with a paid-up capital of RM1.
While the prince has no links to Gabungan Indah, he was involved in a company that previously proposed to develop the KLFNR.
He was previously a director in Titian Jutaria Sdn Bhd, who, together with Menteri Besar Incorporated (MBI), had proposed development at the reserve early last year.
However, both firms now appear to be out of the picture.