THE newly minted Kedah government should act swiftly in gazetting the Ulu Muda Forest Reserve as a water catchment forest as well as protecting its vital functions.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia and Consumers’ Association of Penang president S.M. Mohamed Idris urged the state government to review and revoke logging licences that might have been approved under the previous administration.
“It should put a stop to activities that jeopardised its life-supporting functions within the area.
“Given the fact that Pakatan Harapan has promised in its manifesto to conserve our forests, it is imperative that the Kedah government take urgent action to protect the forest reserve.
“With the Federal Government also being under Pakatan, measures must be taken to compensate the Kedah government for keeping its forest intact for the larger public good, in exchange for the loss of revenue from logging or other activities,” he said.
Last year, Penang Water Supply Corporation chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa was quoted as saying that the whole catchment area would be completely logged in 12 years if no action was taken to stop the deforestation rate.
Mohamed Idris said both the Federal and state governments must use international funds that are available to protect the forest, combat climate change and conserve biodiversity.
The Ulu Muda Forest Reserve and its surrounding forested areas (known as the Greater Ulu Muda Forest) covers a total land area of 106,418ha, making it the largest water catchment area in the northern region.
It is responsible for filling three major dams in Kedah — Ahning Dam, Muda Dam and Pedu Dam — as well as providing water for Perlis, Kedah, and Penang.
Raw water flowing from Ulu Muda is vital for double-cropping in the rice fields of the three states.
Besides, the forest reserve plays a major role as a ‘carbon sink’ critical for addressing climate change.