The land where the Shah Alam Community Forest (SACF) stands is no longer permanent forest reserve land, said Selangor executive councillor (exco) Hee Loy Sian.
The tourism, environment, green technology and orang asal affairs exco clarified this after conducting checks into the matter.
“The Selangor government would like to clarify the development project issue near the Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve and SACF that has been publicised by several NGOs and members of the public via mass media lately.
“Based on checks, it was found that the area for the development project is located outside the permanent forest reserve,” he said in a statement yesterday.
In its latest draft local plan, Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) designated a portion of the SACF as cemetery land and another portion for mixed development.
It also wants to build a road through the forest.
Local residents and environmental groups are opposed to these plans for environmental, community and legal reasons.
The SACF spans some 174ha, the size of 242 football fields.
It is a dipterocarp forest valued for its rich biodiversity, including endangered species like the White-Handed Gibbon. It further forms an ecological corridor linking the Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve in the north with Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam in the south.
It is also a popular hiking spot for urban folk.
Degazetted in 2006
MBSA owns a portion of the land SACF stands on while the rest is owned by state-owned firm Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS).
NGO SACF Society previously raised the possibility that the forest could still be part of the Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve due to an apparent lack of a gazette notice about the de-gazettement decision.
Section 13 of the National Forestry Act 1984 states that state authorities have to publish a notice in the gazette when it excises land from a permanent forest reserve.
In his statement, Hee refuted the society’s claim but did not stipulate if there was a notice in the gazette about the excision.
“The publicised area for constructing the road and housing area is a part of the area that was involved in the de-gazettement of Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve by a previous state government.
“It was de-gazetted to give the state government ownership (of the land) in 2006 through PW1443,” he said.
PW refers to “pelan warta”, a map of the area to be excised.
Malaysiakini has contacted Hee for clarification on the de-gazettement notice.
Mohamad Khir Toyo’s BN administration governed Selangor from 2000 to 2008.
No forest replacement
Elaborating, Hee said no forests had been gazetted to replace the de-gazetted parts of Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve.
This was because the de-gazettement had occurred before such a practice became law.
“The Selangor Forestry Act (Adoption) (Amendment) Enactment 1985 was amended by the state government in 2011 (to require) public hearings for proposed de-gazettement of permanent forest reserves.
“However, the de-gazettement of (this portion of) Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve happened in 2006, before this amendment.
“Therefore, we found that the simultaneous replacement of forest reserve area could not be practised at the time,” he explained.
Hee opined that the existing 1,299ha of the Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve, including Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam, were “still sufficient” for recreational use.
Speaking generally, he said the state government will ensure all development projects adhered to existing laws like needing planning approval and an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report approval.
Hee is also PKR’s Kajang assemblyperson.
The SACF is not officially recognised as a hiking trail by MBSA or any authority.
Its namesake as a “community forest” came from being discovered, mapped and now managed by local residents themselves.