Malaysia: Peka to check possible return of logging activities near Fraser's Hill

HIDIR REDUAN New Straits Times 5 Oct 17;

KUANTAN: The Protection of the Natural Heritage of Malaysia (Peka) is sending a team to Fraser's Hill to check on rumours that loggers have resumed logging activities near an ecotourist spot, in defiance of an ongoing temporary cease order.

Its president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said this comes after a visitor claimed to have spotted a lorry entering the Batu Talam Forest Reserve recently.

"We have heard from someone that a lorry was trying to remove the logs (piled within the area) but we need to verify this first," she said.

She said Peka needed to ensure that the information was accurate before proceeding with further action. So far, she said none of them have witnessed the return of logging activities in the said area.

Shariffa said the team has been tasked to check on the validity of the information, including taking photographs of the area.

"If it is true (resumption of logging activities), we will issue a statement on the matter. They (loggers) should not be touching Fraser's Hill at all," added the 55-year-old, who established the environmental group in 2010.

Shariffa said legal action will be taken if there was evidence that loggers have violated the temporary cease order issued by Pahang Forestry Department on Sept 8.

The order, which covered the removal of logs and construction of roads to logging sites, was issued pursuant to objections by Peka to logging activities in the area that measured 106.78 hectares.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar had said that the plot belonged to the Pahang state government with mining lots within the Batu Talam Forest Reserve, located about 15km from Fraser's Hill.

Meanwhile, unhappy with the Forestry Department's handling of the matter, Shariffa claimed that there were no patrols being conducted by the authorities at the disputed area.

"There are no patrols at all," she said, pointing out that the department should upholsd its responsibility to safeguard the pristine state and ecosystem in Fraser's Hill and the surrounding forest.

Meanwhile, a Raub Forestry officer denied that logging-related activities have resumed at the Batu Talam Forest Reserve or any area near Fraser's Hill.

He also refuted Shariffa's claim that the department had failed to carry out patrols in the area.

"I have not heard (of resumption of logging activities). I myself went there (for patrols) around midday (today). I did not see any signs of lorries. It is still closed," said the officer, who declined to be named.

He added that since the Sept 8 order, all heavy machinery have been removed from the area and that the entrance into the area blocked to prevent entry and exit of vehicles.

Pahang Forestry director Datuk Indera Mohd Paiz Kamaruzaman also refuted Shariffa's claim on lack of patrols, stating that the Raub Forestry officers were constantly monitoring the area to ensure compliance with the order.

"We always conduct patrols in the area," he said, warning that his officers would not hesitate to detain those found trying to transport logs out of the area.

The New Straits Times reported on Sept 26 on logging activities near the Fraser's Hill area, which had been gazetted as primary forest reserve and water catchment area.

Death of logging operator revealed logging activities near Fraser's Hill
TN Alagesh New Straits Times 6 Oct 17;

KUANTAN: It was the tragic death of a logging operator which eventually exposed logging activities at Fraser’s Hill in Raub, which could pose a threat to the fragile ecosystem at one of the country’s popular highland retreats.

Seow Ah Kiat, 63, was awarded the contract to conduct logging works at the site, located not far from Kampung Bukit Telaga, an Orang Asli settlement.

He was killed in an incident on Aug 21 when a huge rock along with soil had landed on him while his son, who was with him, escaped unhurt.

It was reported that the duo were inspecting the road near the site which was said to have only started land clearing works just several weeks earlier. Both were on foot when boulders and loose soil suddenly came crashing down from a slope.

News of the incident prompted the Association for the Protection of the Natural Heritage of Malaysia (Peka), who has been against logging in the area since 2012, to send their team to inspect the site.

Upon noticing the extent of the damage, Peka wrote to the state Forestry Department before a stop order on all logging activities at the site was issued on Sept 8.

Kampung Bukit Telaga village headman Asai Enjak said prior to the incident, he met Seow in early August when huge machines arrived to clear the trees to build roads to the logging site.

“The villagers have been always against land clearing at the site which is located at the base of Fraser’s Hill and when Seow told me had received the approval from the state government, there was nothing we could do.

“After the tragedy, I noticed that huge groups of people including Forestry officers frequenting the site before villagers were informed that works have been told to stop. Land clearing works have stopped since early last month and all the machines were removed from the site,” he said when contacted today.

Asai said he did not notice any vehicle movements at the logging site since all activities were halted last month and furthermore the main entrance to the site has been blocked.

“We have not spotted anything suspicious and Forestry officers were also seen occasionally inspecting the area. The site which was once in a mess with huge machines has returned to its usual self and I hope the situation will remain,” he said, adding that his concern now is the possibility of mudslides should heavy rain lash the exposed soil.

Asai said the stop work order has also spared the main road connecting their settlement and the nearby Tras town where their children attend schools. If the logging activities were to resume, the narrow stretch will be further damaged.

Meanwhile, a Peka spokesman said the non-governmental organisation has been always against the idea to approve logging activities in the area since 2012 and the then district forestry officer has never issued any approval for land clearing works.

“Only after the accident (which killed Seow), Peka realised that logging works had begun at the site and we immediately wrote to the Forestry Department before a stop order covering the removal of logs and the construction of roads to logging sites was issued.

“The earth in the respective section is fragile and land clearing activities could trigger soil movements which could result in disasters. Peka will be visiting the site again next week to check on its condition and if there were irresponsible parties trying their luck to remove the logs,” said the spokesman.

It was reported that Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the plot was state government land with mining lots within the Batu Talam Forest Reserve, which was about 15km from Fraser’s Hill and the Pahang Forestry Department had issued a licence for the plot effective July 15 to Jan 14 next year.

The New Straits Times reported on Sept 26 on logging activities near the Fraser’s Hill area, which had been gazetted as primary forest reserve and water catchment area.