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Friday, March 27, 2020

Coalition calls for postponement of Kuala Langat Forest Reserve degazettement process


CORONAVIRUS | The Coalition for the Protection of Selangor’s Forests has called on the Selangor government to postpone the degazettement process of the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve to after July, as the nation is grappling with the Covid-19 outbreak.
“The movement control order (MCO) and the suspending of activities by NGOs by the Registrar of Societies (ROS) have made it impossible to have any proper assessment of impacts or dialogue on the proposed degazettement,” the coalition said in a statement.
The coalition is made up of several NGOs - the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns Malaysia (COAC), Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), Global Environment Centre (GEC), GRASS Malaysia, Persatuan Aktivis Sahabat Alam (Kuasa) and Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES).
Coalition and TrEES director Leela Panikkar pointed out that aside from the temporary ban on annual general assemblies and related gatherings by the ROS to help slow the spread of coronavirus, the Department of Orang Asli Development (JAKOA) also suspended visits to Orang Asli villages in Peninsular Malaysia.
“This has made it impossible for any dialogue and assessment of the importance of the forest reserve to the Orang Asli to take place. In addition, with the enforcement of the MCO on March 18 and its extension to April 14, stakeholders are unable to consult and prepare for the public inquiry,” she said.
This is as the coalition criticised state Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari who stated on March 18, the day the MCO came into effect, that a townhall session will be held to obtain feedback on the controversial proposed degazettement of the forest reserve.
It was reported that the Selangor Forestry Department received 44,292 written objections to the proposal.
Meanwhile, GEC director Faizal Parish said: “With the banning of public gatherings related to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is also not appropriate for the state to try and convene a public inquiry to which the Orang Asli communities and the more than 40,000 people who made objections, must be invited.
“We, therefore, call for the proposed public inquiry and any other steps in the process to consider the degazettement to be postponed till after July.”
On Feb 10, Malaysiakini had reported that 930ha of the reserve is set to be degazetted and converted for development.
This is after the Selangor Forestry Department placed notices in major dailies inviting stakeholders in the district to voice their objections to such proposals within a 30-day time frame.
Seven gazetted Orang Asli villages are located in the reserve. They are Kampung Orang Asli Pulau Kempas, Bukit Cheeding, Bukit Kecil, Bukit Perah, Busut Baru, Tanjung Rabok and Bukit Kamandol.
Aside from indigenous villages, the forest reserve is also said to be home to endangered and rare flora and fauna.
Amirudin had claimed the government was proposing to turn the forest reserve into a mixed-development zone, and that 40 percent of the land was "degraded" and prone to fires. That was why it was proposed to excise the land as a forest reserve.
A report by Singapore's Straits Times had suggested a royalty was among the possible developers of the land. - Mkini

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