Malaysia: NGOs calls for actions to save Ulu Muda forests without further delay

Audrey Dermawan New Straits Times 24 Jun 18;

GEORGE TOWN: Two non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have joined in the chorus against logging in the Ulu Muda Forest Reserve (UMFR) and for the Federal government to compensate Kedah for the loss of revenue caused by the logging ban.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) also welcomed the move by the Penang government to initiate a top-level meeting between the Federal government and the state governments involved, to find an amicable solution to the logging activities so that the water catchment forests in the UMFR and its surrounding areas (known as the Greater Ulu Muda Forest) are well protected.

SAM and CAP president S M Mohamed Idris said, under the previous government, logging had damaged areas in the UMFR.

“There should be no logging permitted in the area, which extends to extractive activities such as mining or quarrying.

“We are deeply concerned by the statement of Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa, that at the rate of logging in Ulu Muda, the forests would be finished in about 12 to 15 years and that we would face a serious water crisis.

“We therefore urge the newly-elected Kedah state government to urgently gazette the Ulu Muda Forests as water catchment forests and immediately review and revoke any logging licenses that have been approved by the previous government and halt all such activities within the forests area which threaten its life-supporting functions,” he said today.

Yesterday, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said Penang would initiate a top-level meeting between Putrajaya and the northern states to find an amicable solution to logging in Ulu Muda, which threatened the most important water catchment area in the north.

He had said that it was a serious matter as continuous logging in Ulu Muda would affect the water catchment area, triggering a potential regional water crisis involving four million people in the three states and thousands of businesses.

Chow had also said that they would work together with Kedah to request for Federal compensation in lieu of ‘forest premiums’ for logging as well as Federal assistance to gazette, manage and protect Ulu Muda as a regional water catchment area.

Idris said he agreed that measures must be taken to compensate the Kedah state government for keeping its forests intact for the larger public good, in exchange for the loss of revenue from logging or other activities.

“Apart from making available national resources for compensating Kedah, there are also funds available internationally such as from the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility for the protection and conservation of our precious forests.

“The Federal and state governments must avail themselves of these resources urgently,” he said.

Idris also stressed that the Ulu Muda forests were critical in meeting the water needs of Perlis, Kedah and Penang.

He added that raw water originating from Ulu Muda was also essential for double cropping in the rice fields of Kedah, Perlis and Penang, which included the nation’s rice bowl.

“The forests also play a major role as a ‘carbon sink’ critical for addressing climate change.

“We call for no further delay acting to saving and protecting the Ulu Muda forests,” he noted.