Malaysia: 'There's no illegal logging in Lojing'

Sharanjit Singh and Sharifah Mahsinah Abdullah New Straits Times 8 Feb 13;

IN DENIAL: Kelantan govt claims area all logged out before 1990

GUA MUSANG: Rampant jungle clearing, hill cutting and river pollution covering massive areas of the Lojing Highlands have continued unabated, a New Straits Times aerial survey revealed.

Huge swathes of highlands have been stripped bare of trees, and there are signs that the clearings had taken place just recently, despite the state government's contention that Lojing had been cleared of timber before 1990.

Rivers are clogged with earth and the once clear waters are now the colour of teh tarik.

Frustratingly, despite concerns over the potential of irreversible environmental damage in the area, the Kelantan government has brushed aside these "unfounded" fears, and labelled them as nothing more than just a "misunderstanding".

State Islamic Development, Education and Dakwah Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah, when confronted with questions about the environmental degradation, admitted that land in Lojing -- bordering Pahang's Cameron Highlands -- was being cleared to make way for farms and mixed-development projects.

He denied that any logging was going on there.

"There is no logging being done in Lojing as claimed by the media because there is no timber left there. The area was logged out even before we (Pas) came to power in 1990.

"There are only bamboo and small trees left and they were cleared as the area is being developed to be planted with oil palm and rubber trees."

Amar said the state government had given the green light to several companies and agencies to clear land at Lojing Highlands and the projects started "a few years ago".

However, contrary to his statement, clear signs of ongoing hill cutting and land clearing are going on at the highlands.

Bulldozers could be seen clearing the hillslopes and there were also signs of recent landslides which occurred close to the Gua Musang highway. Amar said the state government had given land in Gua Musang and Lojing to state agencies, including Kelantan State Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), Kelantan Islamic Foundation (YIK) and Kelantan Darulnaim Foundation (YAKIN), which later leased the land to a few companies.

He added that development of the land was needed because Lojing was located on high land and bordered Cameron Highlands.

"For Gua Musang, the setting up of the new town will boost tourism in the vicinity."

Amar said the state government was constructing two new towns in Sigar and Pos Brooke, and plans have also been drawn up for resorts in the area.

Pressed on the logging taking place in Lojing, he said the issue of illegal logging highlighted by the media might be a "misunderstanding". Amar said the logging could have been taking place at another area near Gua Musang.

"The media must give details on the area involved before they expose it to the public.

"In Gua Musang, there are few projects that the state government had carried out and they include those set aside for the 'Ladang Rakyat Projek,'" he said.

Commenting on the same issue, state deputy forestry director (development division) Mohd Fauzi Abu Bakar said the department had yet to receive any reports of illegal logging.

He welcomed those with information to inform the department.

"We will take immediate action if there are illegal logging in the state and will not hesitate to nab those involved."

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