LETTER TO THE EDITOR 23 JANUARY 2015
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) refers to the statement made by YAB Menteri Besar Kelantan on 3rd Januarythat was reported in several local dailies.
YAB Menteri Besar Kelantan had stated that logging activities in Lojing Highlands was frozen since 2006.
However questions abound and SAM urges YAB Menteri Besar to substantiate his statement because according to sources from the State Forestry Department, in 2014 alone a total of 41 logging concession licences were approved in the Permanent Reserved Forests (PRF) in the South Kelantan Forest District (covering Jajahan Gua Musang and Jajahan Kecil Lojing).
Most of the approved logging concession licenses in the PRF in the South Kelantan Forest District are for the purpose of large scale conversion to monoculture crops or what is called tree (forest) plantations.
Before the growing of monoculture crops take place in the PRF, the original forest cover (natural forest) will be harvested by clear cutting. Clear cutting for these activities is not subject to the practice of 'sustainable forest management' and Annual Allowable Cut.
YAB Menteri Besar’s statement that Kelantan practices sustainable forest management and has received ‘Malaysian Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management’ (MC&I) certification is only limited to logging activities in natural forest in PRFs. PRFs where monoculture planting, mining and other activities are conducted are not subject to this certification.
High rainfall rate cannot be construedas the main factor that contributed to the flooding because it is known that the northeast monsoon between October to March does bring heavy rain to the east coast each year.
The geophysical and topography of Kelantan has several major ranges that is known asthe 'Central Forest Spine'. According to the National Physical Plan (NPP) the area is categorized as Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) which needs to be protected.
Although the State Authority has adopted the NPP but it is disappointing that most of the ESAs have been destroyed by human activities especially logging and agricultural purposes.
Moreover these activities are carried out without control although the State Authority admitted to having 'standard and operating procedure' that is approved by the relevant authorities.
The State Authority must understand that when the 'Central Forest Spine', which is categorized as ESA is destroyed and activities other than forest land use are conducted, this would impact the forest hydrology.
Land surface that is exposed to heavy rainfall will cause excess runoff, erosion of hillslopes, structural damage to the rivers and deterioration of water quality.
The natural forest is a very important asset because one of the functions of stands of trees and plants is the ability to collect rainfall while the decay on the forest floor protects the soil from direct impact of rainfall.
In addition, when the forest is destroyed, the process of evaporation increases and water vapour levels are usually higher.
Based on SAM’s observation and study, we have identified that amongst the contributing factors to the flooding in Kelantan recently is human activities that exploit the ESAs especially in the PRF. For example:
- Large-scale clear-cutting logging for the purpose of monoculture plantations in Gua Musang, Kelantan which is part of Sungai Berok Forest Reserve, Batu Papan Forest Reserve, Hulu Galas Forest Reserve and Gunung Rabong Forest Reserve;
- Large-scale clear-cutting logging for mining purposes in Gua Musang, Kelantan at Sungai Betis Forest Reserve and Nenggiri Forest Reserve;
- Large-scale clear-cutting logging for the purpose of growing monoculture crops are carried out in other districts in Kelantan as well;
However, there is no denying that there are other human activities and natural factors that had contributed to the floods.
Even the Sultan of Kelantan, Sultan Muhammad V had proclaimed that all parties should be aware that the flood disaster is the result of man's own making.
Therefore SAM urges the State Authority to stop and not approve any more risky activities that impact the ESAs especially in the Permanent Reserved Forests.
SAM also urges the State Authority and other relevant authorities to comply with and adopt plans of physical planning, especially the National Physical Plan (NPP) and other policies relating to conservation and protection of the natural environment, besides enforcing the legal provisions of existing laws.
S.M. MOHAMED IDRIS