Malaysia: Uphill struggle to preserve country's forest cover -- Minister Wan Junaidi

AZURA ABAS New Straits Times 3 May 16;

PUTRAJAYA: The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has urged all parties to reconsider any plans to develop permanent reserved forest areas.

Its minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the move was necessary to ensure the country's forest cover remains beyond 50 per cent, especially in Peninsular Malaysia.

"For any permanent forest that has been degazetted or cleared for development, these areas must be replaced immediately in line with Section 12 of the National Forest Act 1964," he said in a statement today.

Wan Junaidi said that if necessary, by using the National Land Council platform, the ministry would call on state authorities to review land development projects that would involve permanent forest reserve.

He said permanent forest reserves in Kuala Lumpur has shrunk from 106.10ha to 68.27ha due to road and infrastructure developments.

There are four permanent forest reserves in KL namely Bukit Lagong with 2.10ha of forest cover, Bukit Nanas (9.37ha), Sungai Puteh (14.51ha) and Sg, Besi (42.29ha).

The permanent forest reserves, he said, were crucial as water catchment areas especially as with country facing the El-Nino phenomena.

In this respect, he said, it was sensible to stop any land development in permanent forest reserve areas immediately to support the nation's biodiversity conservation efforts.

Review forest clearing for projects, state govts told
MAZWIN NIK ANIS The Star 4 May 16;

PUTRAJAYA: The recent reckless clearing of forest reserves in the name of development has prompted the federal authorities to consider asking state governments to review such projects.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, through the National Land Council, will seek the states’ co-operation to protect the country’s green lungs and for those projects to be re-considered for the sake of the environment.

Its Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the Federal Government did not encourage permanent forest reserves to be de-gazetted for development although the states have the authority to do so under Section 11 of the National Forestry Act 1984.

“While they can allow these lands to be developed, the states must be responsible and committed to gazetting new areas as permanent forest reserves, just as fast as they approve the projects,” he said yesterday.

Dr Wan Junaidi said the next council meeting would discuss the suggestion that his ministry enforce a regulation whereby, before an existing area can be cleared for development, a replacement area must already be in place.

He said Malaysia was committed to several international treaties and agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agree-ment to maintain a forest area of no less than 50% of the country’s size, and reminded the states to play their part in maintaining green areas.

The minister pointed out that permanent forest areas in Kuala Lumpur had depleted from 106.10ha when these areas were gazetted to only 68.27ha today.

There are four permanent forest reserve areas in Kuala Lumpur – Bukit Lagong (2.1ha), Bukit Nanas (9.37ha), Sungai Puteh (14.51ha) and Sungai Besi (42.29ha).

Bukit Lagong’s area remains unchanged since it was gazetted in 1962, but the forest area in Bukit Nanas, which was gazetted in 1906 with an area of 17ha, has since been reduced in size to 9.37ha due to road and infrastructure projects.

The Sungai Puteh permanent forest area, gazetted in 1933 with an area of 40ha, is now left with 14.51ha while the Sungai Besi permanent forest area has seen a loss of 4.71ha since it was gazetted in 1932.

Last week, several groups protested against the de-gazetting of forests to make way for the Sungai Besi-Ulu Klang Expressway (SUKE) project and Damansara-Shah Alam Highway (DASH).

The forests that will be affected are the Bukit Cherakah and Sungai Buloh reserves for DASH ,while the Sungai Puteh reserve may be de-gazetted for SUKE.