NOW that Penang and Kedah governments are on the same side of the political fence, the Ulu Muda Forest Reserve, the greatest water catchment area of the northern region, might get more protection.
Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) will begin talks with Kedah again to gazette the whole of Ulu Muda as a water catchment area.
PBAPP chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa hoped that the two states might finally see “eye to eye” on the issue and put an end to both illegal and previously state-sanctioned logging there.
He said they believed something could be worked out with Pakatan Harapan taking over the Federal Government and Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir returning to the state as the mentri besar.
“With people now from the same side, we can sit down and resolve the matter.
“We have been asking Kedah to gazette Ulu Muda for many years.
“We will support Kedah seeking compensation from the Federal Government for the logging income lost in exchange for protecting Ulu Muda.
“It is only fair for the Federal Government to compensate Kedah which must sacrifice the logging income for the sake of the northern region,” he said in a phone interview recently.
He urged the Federal Government to be understanding because Ulu Muda was a crucial water catchment area for the North Corridor Economic Region, with Muda River providing more than 80% of Penang’s daily raw water.
Mukhriz was mentri besar when Barisan Nasional regained Kedah from PAS in 2013 but was ousted three years later when the state assembly declared a loss of confidence in his leadership.
Mukhriz now helms the state again, forming a Pakatan Harapan government.
Jaseni viewed his return and the new Pakatan Harapan Federal Government as bringing new hope for protecting Ulu Muda.
Jaseni warned last year that the whole catchment area would be completely logged in 12 years if no action was taken to stop the deforestation rate.
He said last year that the Muda Dam catchment area had shrunk by 87.3% – from 98,400ha in 1969 to just 12,484ha.
The whole of the Ulu Muda Forest Reserve covers 106,418ha and Jaseni said this northern green lung should be gazetted as a water catchment area and protected forever.
The previous Kedah government had constantly maintained that state-sanctioned logging was under control and did not affect the water supply.