HOW many more forests have to make way for concrete jungles and tarmac rivers before we find ourselves bereft of green lungs?
Time and time again, the pleas of residents and environmental groups to preserve or gazette forest reserves have fallen on deaf ears.
Urban areas in the Klang Valley are already suffering from overdevelopment and depleting green spaces.
Residents should not be made to travel far just to go for a hike or simply enjoy nature and de-stress.
It looks like there are not many forest reserves left in the more urban areas of Klang Valley.
Among the popular ones are Kota Damansara Community Forest Reserve, Bukit Gasing Forest Reserve, Bukit Kiara Trail Park, Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve trail in Puchong and the Shah Alam Community Forest.
Many cars will be seen parked around these areas, especially on weekends, with hundreds if not thousands of visitors.
However if there is no green lung in their area, residents will have to take a long drive to enjoy nature.
So what are the state governments doing to preserve their natural assets —-forests?
It had previously been reported that the Selangor government would be gazetting as many as possible.
Recently, there were almost 200 objections from residents over the proposed construction of a 1km road through the Shah Alam Community Forest in the Shah Alam Local Draft Plan 2035.
The 172ha involved are not zoned as a forest reserve.
Selangor government owns 52ha of it while the rest belongs to the Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS).
The community forest sits on state land and residents have been pushing for the place to be gazetted as a forest reserve as it is the only major green lung in their community, aside from neighbourhood parks and playgrounds.
It is learnt that the area is zoned for a cemetery and a road will now be built there to connect two townships.
Is it really necessary to build a road through a forest which has been long cared for and cherished by the community?
Deforestation will lead to the loss of flora and fauna, especially endangered wildlife species like the Malayan tapir.
Forests act as an important ecosystem for climate control and underground water catchment areas to prevent flooding.
Earlier this year, it was reported that another forest reserve in Selangor was under threat of degazettement, which will see a 958ha area cut down to leave behind a mere 28ha.
This is the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR), which also saw numerous objections when it was proposed to be degazetted for a mixed development project.
Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari was reported to have said that the government would replace the 931ha of degazetted forest by gazetting another bigger area as a forest reserve.
The replacement forest will either be in Kuala Selangor, Sabak Bernam or Hulu Selangor.
But will it be the same? KLNFR is a peat swamp forest and according to environmental experts, nowhere else in Selangor can we find peat swamps like the one in Kuala Langat.
In 2018, there was also a proposal to degazette 28.3ha within the Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve in Gombak for a housing project.
In 2016, two hearings were held for proposals to degazette 30ha of Sungai Puteh North and South Forest Reserves for the Sungai Besi-Ulu Klang Highway as well as 3.4ha of the Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve for the Damansara-Shah Alam Elevated Expressway project.
In 2014, Selangor residents also saw the degazettement of 106.65ha of the Ampang Forest Reserve for the construction of East Klang Valley Expressway.
All three highways are now in different stages of completion.
While development is crucial, green spaces and forest reserves should also be cared for and prioritised.
If more forest reserves are degazetted, what will future generations be left with?
As stakeholders, we need to make sure our voices are heard before it is too late.
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