Malaysia: New logging road a cause for concern

PATRICK LEE The Star 25 Feb 15;

KLUANG: A logging road is allegedly being opened in the gazetted Kluang catchment area, raising fears that future logging there will taint local water supply.

Believed to be several kilometres long and reaching deep into the jungles near here, the newly-opened road appears to be in the east end of the gazetted catchment area.

The catchment area is to serve as a water resource for the Kahang Dam.

A source who alerted The Star to the matter said that the road appeared there between December 2014 and January this year.

“The issue here is that it falls (within the water catchment area), and will have an effect on a crucial future water resource for the Kluang district,” the source told The Star.

In a visit there in late January, The Star noticed an excavator and a bulldozer parked on the way to the newly opened road, 30km north-east of Kluang.

The only possible way to get to the new road is via an existing logging road, which the source said was in use decades prior.

While there were no signs of large-scale tree-felling by the road, a few trees alongside had been marked with tags. Some were also marked with spraypaint.

Global Positioning System (GPS) devices showed the road apparently skirting the Gua Harimau hill, which lay within the catchment area.

According to a Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment report on the Kahang Dam, the catchment area was gazetted as such by the Johor state government on Oct 9, 2008.

The Kahang Dam is expected to provide some 100 million extra litres of water a day, meeting Kluang’s water demand up to 2035. It is expected to be ready after September 2016.

Current water supply for the Kluang district is roughly 132 million litres a day.

The DEIA states that the area also falls within the Kluang Forest Reserve.

“Since the forest is gazetted as a water catchment area, the forest will be free from logging activty,” the report said.

A statement by Johor Forestry Department director Mohd Ridza Awang said that the planned logging was going to take place in the nearby Kluang Forest Reserve.

He said that the logging licence would cover some 23.36ha, and was valid from Dec 15, 2014, to March 14 this year.

“This office will conduct periodical monitoring on the area,” he said.

Johor Forestry deputy director Mohd Rahim Rani clarified that the road and the to-be-logged area was out of the catchment zone.

“It is outside of the catchment area, and the area (to be logged) is under production forest,” he said.

Production forest is a term where a jungle area can be gazetted for logging purposes.