Malaysia: Fresh logging at Ulu Muda water catchment area

SHARANPAL SINGH RANDHAWA, RUBEN SARIO, andGAN PEI LING
The Star 14 Apr 17;

SUNGAI PETANI: Almost a year after rampant logging near the Ulu Muda reserve that affected the water catchment area and dam there was exposed, a new trail for timber lorries has been found.

The new trail at the catchment area in the forest reserve near Sik, is believed to have been used by loggers since early this year.

The 5m wide trail is more than 15km long and it runs uphill along the Ulu Muda lake.

A check by The Star on Wednesday revealed hundreds of logs stacked at the base site. There was also heavy machinery parked there.

A signboard at the base site showed that a permit has been issued by the Kedah Tengah District forestry officer in Sungai Petani to a licence holder to carry out logging at secondary roads 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 118 and 177.

The name of the contractor is also stated in the board. The permit is valid until May 1. It came into effect on Nov 2 last year.

There is another signboard which states that the licence holder is Perbadanan Menteri Besar Kedah. The area is listed as 200ha with the permit valid from July 3 to Oct 4, last year.

The Ulu Muda forest reserve stretches from the Malaysian border with Thailand at Yala to Baling in the north of Perak and is about twice the size of Singapore. It is said to be a paradise for nature and wildlife lovers.

Although logging there seems to be legal, the question really is: Why is logging allowed at the crucial water catchment area?

Universiti Sains Malaysia water resources, hydrology and flood hazard management and climatology expert Prof Dr Chan Ngai Weng said the Kedah government should gazette the place as a water catchment area.

“Once that is done, there can be no logging there. We are very concerned about the impact of logging at the catchment area.

“Rain water does not go into the ground. The water runs off into the river and then, into the sea.”

“Logging will expose the land. Rain splash erosion and surface erosion will wash sediments into the rivers, causing water pollution and the shallowing of river beds.

“Consequently, rivers’ drainage capacities will be significantly reduced," Chan said, adding that the quality of the water supplied to the people in surrounding areas would also be affected.

He called on the state and Federal governments to take measures at the Ulu Muda reserve forests so that soil erosion, soil sediments and silt are stopped from getting into the water and river systems.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Nature Society Penang branch adviser D. Kanda Kumar said Kedah had been logging the forest for a long time.

He said water from the Sungai Muda river was used for agriculture and as supply for Kedah and Penang. “Water from the Muda Dam is pumped to the Pedu Dam and it is primarily used for the Muda irrigation scheme of about 97,000ha of padi.

“Intense logging there will determine how much top soil on the hills is washed into the river,” he said.

Last May, a check by The Star showed that at least five logging depots, with thousands of high-quality logs such as Meranti, Cengal and Merbau, were waiting to be transported out to their processing destinations.

The logging depots were about the size of 30 football fields and it is believed that there were more such depots deeper inside the forest.


Days of crystal clear water over for villagers
The Star 14 Apr 17;

SUNGAI PETANI: Crystal clear and chlorine-free spring water used to gush out of the taps in many homes of hinterland villages of Kedah. Not any more.

The villagers, who used to enjoy this simply by piping hilltop springs and streams directly to their homes, now get water that is stained yellow.

They believe deforestation upstream is what spoiled their once prized water. They have voiced their grievances to the village heads but nothing has been done.

Haniza Ya, 45, a housewife from Kampung Bukit Berangan, said the water gets especially “dirty” after a downpour.

“This has been the scenario since 2013. We do not get water from the Syarikat Air Darul Aman Sdn Bhd (Sada), so our main source is the hill’s springs and we channel the water into a small reservoir,” she said.

“During the rainy season, we even get sand with the water. So, we store water for drinking and cooking when it is not raining and boil it properly,” said the mother of four.

Others said the affected villages were Kampung Belantik, Kampung Surau, Kampung Charok Keladi, Kampung Kota Aur, Kampung Bukit Berangan, Kampung Bukit Batu, Kampung Kuala Betong, Kampung Kubang, Kampung Lentang and Kampung Pinang. There is an estimated 8,000 villagers there.

A fisherman, who only wanted to be known as Pak Abu from Kampung Belantik, was certain that intense logging deep in the hills polluted their rivers.

“It has also reduced the number of fish in the river. I travel upstream and feel angry when I see murky waters deep in the forest,” he said.

Another villager wanting to be known only as Ahmad said the once clean Sungai Sok was now dirty.

“So much dirtier now but what can we do? These companies have the licence to log here,” he complained.

The 2014 Auditor-Generals report said the state approved 6,252ha of forest for logging and 4,612ha in 2013.

Kedah received RM30.1mil in forestry premiums in 2014 and RM10.8mil in 2013.

Previous Auditor-General’s reports showed that in 2012, the state government approved 8,542ha for logging and received RM32.93mil in premiums, while 12,909ha were approved in 2011 with a premium of RM74.92mil.

In 2010, 7,856.11ha yielded RM48.54mil while in 2009, 6093.68ha were approved for RM33.05mil.


Stop issuing new logging licences, says exco man
The Star 14 Apr 17;

ALOR SETAR: The state government should stop issuing new logging licences immediately, says Kedah Environment Committee chairman Datuk Dr Leong Yong Kong.

Dr Leong said enough clearing had been done and any more of such activities would harm the environment.

“My duty is to protect the environment. Enough of what has been cleared. We have huge backlog of approved licences and we can’t go on approving more.

“The state will have to pay a hefty price in the future for this,” he said yesterday.

Dr Leong added that it was a reality that the state was facing water scarcity and logging activities near the water catchment areas should be stopped.

He added that if there was a real need, the whole Ulu Muda forest reserve would be gazetted as a water catchment area to ensure that there would be no more encroachment.

“Water resources will be destroyed. Dirty water becomes the norm, be it for domestic use or irrigation. We must put a stop to it,” he said, adding that a meeting would be held soon with the respective agencies, including the Kedah Forestry Department.

Meanwhile, Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada) general manager Datuk Fouzi Ali said that areas near the important Muda and Pedu dams should not be touched with no logging activity carried out there.

“It is important for water catchment areas to be protected. As for irrigation, the water capacity in Pedu dam is insufficient.

“This situation worsens during a drought. We normally rely on the dam’s water for the first season of padi cultivation and for the second season, we rely on rainfall.

“However, early this year the dam’s water was insufficient and we almost resorted to dry seeding. But we were lucky enough to get enough rain,” he added.

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