MORE than 1,500 people, including two environmental groups and orang asli villagers, are pleading for the state government to withdraw the approval given for a logging concession on a piece of land within the Bintang Hijau Forest Reserve known as Compartment 66.
They group started its protest against the approval when the villagers first saw a sign put up at the forest area in Hulu Lawin, near Grik, two weeks ago while they were there to pick some herbs.
The sign stated that the logging would cover an 80ha area of the forest.
The villagers from Kampung Lawin and Kampung Orang Asli Lawin, who live near the forest reserve, say they are deeply unsettled by the logging as two major floods had ravaged their villages in the past four years – one in 2012 and another last year.
They are worried that the logging will cause erosion on the hillside and damage the physical structure of the river, causing a deluge of mud in the end.
A villager who only wished to be identified as a representative from the Anak Jati Lawin Group, said about 800 houses were destroyed in the previous floods.
“Is it worth it just because someone sitting at the top wishes to earn more money at the expense of the villagers?
“The state government and these concessionaires can always come up with alternative plans for their revenue, but for us villagers, the river and the forest are our only livelihoods.
“Once they are compromised or gone, we have nowhere to turn to,” he said when met at the protest site Kawasan Rekreasi Hulu Lawin near Felda Lawin Selatan on recently.
Some also feared that further logging in the already sensitive forest ecosystem will cause damage mainly to the water system of the area as the majority of villagers rely on the water that comes from Sungai Hulu Lawin in the forest reserve.
Orang asli villager Radi Aji, 36, said although the logging activity had yet to start, workers from the timber concessionaire have already started clearing an access road in Compartment 66.
“As a result, the river water which we use for bathing and drinking has turned slightly yellowish and dirty.
“We can still bathe as we wait for the sediment to flow away, but we definitely cannot use it to drink for now,” he said.
Kampung Lawin village chief Ramli Ariffin said as lowly villagers, sending letters to the state government was the only way for them to get their voices heard.
“But even then, letters can be easily ignored or unread.
“We hope that after today’s large protest from all the villagers here, the state government will hear us out and stop the logging activity right away,” he said.
The two environmental groups – Association for the Protection of Natural Heritage of Malaysia (Peka) and Sabahat Alam Malaysia – declared that they made their objections to the state over the past two weeks upon being informed of the logging activity, but regretted to find out that the logging concession had still been approved.
“People need to know the importance of preserving our forests as they provide a wide range of benefits for human life.
“When natural disaster occurs, like floods, it is not nature’s fault, it is our fault as humans who don’t know how to take care of Mother Nature’s gifts to us,” said Peka president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil.
At a separate press conference the following day, Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir declined to comment on the issue.
State Forestry Department director Datuk Roslan Ariffin could not be reached for comments as well.