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Monday, August 30, 2021

Selangor quietly excises half of Kuala Langat forest reserve


The Selangor government de-gazetted 54 percent of the Kuala Langat North forest as a permanent reserve in May.

This was only uncovered during question time at the Selangor legislative assembly today.

The move will allow 536.7ha from the 991.9ha forest to be exploited.

Hee Loy Sian (Pakatan Harapan-Kajang) - the Selangor exco member in charge of tourism, environment, green technology - told the House that the government decided against allowing the entire forest to be used, as originally planned because the government took heed of objections.

“This is because the government of Selangor took into account objections, the importance of biodiversity and the interest of the Orang Asli.

“Therefore, only a portion of the permanent forest reserve was de-gazetted,” he said.

Hee (above) said this to written questions from Elizabeth Wong (Harapan-Bukit Lanjan), Lau Weng San (Harapan-Kampung Tunku), Ahmad Yunus Hairi (PAS-Sijangkang), Mohd Imran Tamrin (BN-Sungai Panjang) and R Rajiv (Harapan-Bukit Gasing).

Govt to ‘replace’ forest reserve

Hee said the state government had also decided to gazette three other parcels of forests as a “replacement” for the excised portion of the Kuala Langat North forest reserve.

The three new forest reserves are in the Sungai Panjang, Ampang Pecah and Broga areas totalling 581.8ha.

“The government is still ensuring that permanent forest reserve areas are not less than 30 percent (of the state’s landmass),” he said.

In March last year, Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari revealed that two companies - Titian Jutaria Sdn Bhd and Menteri Besar Incorporated Selangor (MBI Selangor) - had proposed to develop the Kuala Langat North forest reserve.

A public hearing on the planned de-gazetting was held in September last year, where participants were overwhelmingly against the move.

The Kuala Langat North forest reserve is a rare peat swamp near Cyberjaya and a natural habitat for rare animals.

'Use your brains!'

A livid Wong lashed out at the state government for refusing to heed the Selangor legislative assembly’s decision in November last year to abandon de-gazettement plans for the Kuala Langat North forest reserve.

At the time, the House voted unanimously in favour of the relevant motion by Najwan Halimi (Harapan-Kota Anggerik).

Wong argued that Selangor has enough land for development and therefore the state cannot afford to sacrifice a forest reserve for commercial purposes.

“We can consider (developing the land) if it had been for public purposes. But not for corporate greed and profit.

“I want to ask Kajang (lawmaker): Who will eventually own the land? Which company? Who is the owner? This House deserves a detailed answer.

“We are not like other states, which simply give land for loggers or private companies to do whatever. I am regretful. I am very disappointed with the Selangor government.

“You have the means, you have the brains, but you are not using it to your full capacity,” said the backbencher.

Najwan’s motion not binding

In reply, Hee explained that Najwan’s motion had no binding effect on the state.

“A private member’s motion guides us. It does not bind the executive council. The council can make its own decisions,” he said.

He stressed that the decision was made unanimously by the executive council.

On Wong's argument the government was wrong to remove a rare peat swamp as a forest reserve, Lee argued that the “replacement” in Sungai Panjang was also a peat swamp.

He said a consultant had advised the government that the value of biodiversity in the “replacement” forest reserve was almost the same as the Kuala Langat forest reserve.

As to the identity of the developer, Hee revealed that Gabungan Indah Sdn Bhd will develop 494.7ha of the excised forest reserve.

According to the Companies Commission of Malaysia, Gabungan Indah is owned wholly by Venturescape Sdn Bhd (incorporated on Dec 1, 2020), which in turn is wholly owned by Perdana Parkcity - the developer of Desa Parkcity in Kuala Lumpur.

He said the parcel of land to be handed to the developer was "degraded" land affected by a fire several years ago.

"It is empty. There are no tall trees. It is degraded by fire," he said.

ECRL consideration

Hee's explanation did not satisfy both backbenchers and opposition lawmakers.

Rajiv, for instance, was not satisfied that with Hee's claim that the de-gazettement was necessary to meet housing needs in the future.

"There are plenty of land in Batang Berjuntai, Rawang, Selayang and even Shah Alam.

"Did the planning department state that there is not enough land for housing, necessitating the use of a forest?" asked Rajiv.

Hee explained that the development project was mixed, featuring commercial and residential products.

He added that the area will also benefit from the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) if it was not realigned.

Ahmad Yunus, PAS' sole lawmaker in the Selangor assembly, said the Kuala Langat North forest reserve was categorised as a "Category 1" area for natural disasters and whether the government had considered this when allowing development.

To this, Hee said the developers will have to submit an environmental impact assessment report that will resolve these issues. - Mkini

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