Malaysia: Rape of the forests in Kelantan

Syed Azhar The Star 12 Feb 13;

KOTA BARU: The aerial view of Kuala Krai and Gua Musang in Kelantan’s southern region shows areas of rampant land clearing and wanton destruction of virgin forests.

According to a Kelantan-based non-governmental organisation, Young People against Corruption (Ombak), the devastation covers at least five hills between Kuala Krai and Gua Musang.

“The pictures and video show that in some places, land has been cleared for logging far more seriously than the case of Lojing in Gua Musang.

“Many hills have been stripped clear of trees,” said Ombak president Wan Khairul Ihsan Wan Muhammad. The NGO went on a helicopter ride to check the area last Friday.

He said the environmental ruin, stretching to the Pahang-Kelantan and Kelantan-Perak borders, could not be seen from human settlements and roads.

He estimated that thousand of hectares of forest reserve land or land earmarked for logging activities had been cleared.

Describing it as “rape of the forested hills”, he said logging was being done in the middle of forest reserves stealthily to avoid public detection.

“Forests are cut down in the mid-section, leaving a buffer zone of trees that are untouched as a smoke screen to cover up the action.

“Bertam is one of the areas. Thousands of hectares have been logged or converted into commercial plantations.

“They cannot be seen from the road but are very visible from the air.

“This also explains why the colour of the Kelantan river is constantly murky like teh tarik,” he added.

Wan Khairul Ihsan also claimed that active logging was going on in Kuala Betis, Lojing, based on video evidence of logs being stacked up and waiting to be brought out from the area despite the recent denial by senior exco member Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah.

“We have all the proof to show the rampant land clearing activities and serious environmental degradation and polluted rivers.

“We are identifying the affected areas through the use of global positioning system coordinates and if the state government wants evidence we are prepared to show them,” Wan Khairul added.

“The problem is real and it is causing serious environmental problems not only to the rivers but is also destroying the forest ecology,” he added.