Malaysia: Kedah government aware of logging activities in Ulu Muda reserve

The Star 16 May 16;

ALOR SETAR: The state government is aware of the logging activities in the Ulu Muda forest reserve and efforts are being made to protect the reserve.

“Those who were found to have conducted logging illegally will be banned immediately,” said Kedah Water Supply, Water Resources and Energy Committee chairman Datuk Badrol Hisham Hashim.

He said he would look into the areas in the forest that were permitted for logging and the companies that were issued licences to do so.

He acknowledged that the place was an important water catchment area.

“Discussions will be held to see how it can be gazetted for that purpose,” he said.

Kedah Environment Committee chairman Datuk Dr Leong Yong Kong said the state government was not agreeable to any logging activity which could destroy the forest near the water catchment area.

He added if there was a dire need for the future of the people, the whole Ulu Muda forest reserve would be gazetted as a water catchment area to ensure no more encroachment.

A government official, who declined to be named, said the state had always hoped for no more logging in the water catchment areas and forest reserves but it was a fast way to get money to “run the state”.

At the Kedah state assembly sitting last year, former mentri besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir said the state government had to issue logging licences to concessionaires as this was approved by the previous PAS administration.

Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada) general manager Fouzi Ali said he was unaware that logging was being carried out in the forest reserve but stressed that it was important for the water catchment area to be protected.

As for the depleting water levels at the three dams in Kedah, Fouzi said the total amount was still sufficient.

He said it was also enough for irrigation for the first padi cultivation this year and the water used was from the Pedu Dam.

As of yesterday, the Pedu and Ahning dams were at safe levels while the Muda dam was at a “minimum safe” level.

Mada head of corporate communications Mohd Hafizi Zakariah said the water levels in Muda dam was at 92.34m (34.63%); Ahning dam at 105.22m (69.79%) and Pedu dam at 86.92m (47.72%).

“The release of water from the Muda dam for irrigation has been closed and the water from the Ahning and Pedu dams will be used instead.

“The average balance of all three dams is at 50.40% and we are confident that it can last until late September,” he said.

The Kedah Forestry Department has yet to furnish The Star with figures on the total area in the Ulu Muda forest that were sanctioned for logging.

Ulu Muda no longer a paradise
ROYCE TAN The Star 16 May 16;

ALOR SETAR: The little-known Ulu Muda forest reserve stretches from the Malaysian border with Thailand at Yala in the north to Baling in the north of Perak.

It’s about twice the size of Singapore and a paradise for nature and wildlife lovers.

More importantly, it’s a lifeline for Perlis, Kedah and Penang, supplying much of the water for all three.

It serves as a vital water catchment area to the Muda, Pedu and Ahning dams that supply most of the water to the three states.

The reserve is now facing a big threat. Rampant logging is taking place in the forest reserve.

While small bare patches of the forest could be seen by motorists using the Federal Road 157 travelling between Gulau and Weng, it does not seem severe enough for someone to bat an eyelid – not until one enters the logging sites and depots.

Just 9km from the Forest Ranger’s office in Gulau, one would have to cross Sungai Sok, where the water levels are only shin-high.

Forest roads measuring around 3m showed that many trees were cleared just to make way for heavy-duty vehicles plying the paths to transport logs out of the forest.

The Star managed to find at least five logging depots, with thousands of high-quality logs such as meranti, cengal and merbau lying around, waiting to be transported out to their processing destinations.

The logging depots discovered were about the size of 30 football fields.

It is believed that there are more similar depots deeper inside the forest.

Workers were also seen standing guard at makeshift tents of other entrances, which are believed to lead to the logging sites.

Some were also seen measuring and recording the types of the logs before they were transported out of the forest to the Forest Ranger’s office in Gulau for inspection before the lorries ferrying them headed to their respective destinations.

A two-hour observation in front of the office showed that some 100 logs ferried by 10 lorries were inspected.

The logging activities have definitely not gone down well with the villagers in the vicinity.

Wahad Ahmad, 48, who lives in Kampung Landai, said the once clean Sungai Sok was now very murky.

“The river has been filled with mud and sand. It’s worse when it rains.

“When I was a child, we used to swim and catch fish in this river.

“It’s impossible for my children to enjoy that right now,” said the odd-job worker.

A retiree who wished to be known only as Pak Man, said he would often see lorries going in and out of the logging areas.

“Yes, the river is much dirtier now but what can we do? These companies have the licence to log here,” he said.

Over in Kampung Belantik some 10km away, boatman Zulkifli Ibrahim, 45, was also disappointed when he spoke about the sedimentation of the river.

He said back in the days before the logging at the forest began, the water was so clear that some villagers would even drink from it and it was also the main water source for them.

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

Kedah received RM30.1mil in forest premium in 2014 and RM10.8mil in 2013.

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

In 2010, 7,856.11ha yielded a forest premium of RM48.54mil while in 2009, 6093.68ha were approved with a forest premium of RM33.05mil.

Not a single drop of rain in Kota Baru for 43 days
The Star 16 May 16;

KOTA BARU: The Kota Baru district has not seen rain for the past 43 days.

As for Kuala Krai, it recorded its highest temperature of 37.2°C on Saturday, said a statement from the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry.

Meanwhile, AF Jets Sdn Bhd, the cloud seeding company that has been spreading salt concentrated flares over the skies of Kelantan since last Sunday, has reported a 70% success rate.

Rain has fallen in Pasir Mas, Machang, Gua Musang, Kuala Krai, Tumpat, Pasir Mas and Pasir Puteh, except Kota Baru.

AF Jets, which is using a Cessna C172 aircraft for the operation, is spending about RM300,000 but it is doing it for free as part of its corporate social responsibility.

Many of the lakes and wells in the state have dried up.