'Don't log in catchment areas'


BY ONG JU LYNN

PENANG: The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) has opposed the proposed helicopter logging of the Ulu Muda forests, Kedah, stating that any form of logging in a water catchment area should be avoided. 

MNS chairman Pang Fatt Khow said the forest reserves were major water catchment areas for the Muda, Pedu and Ahning dams which supply water to Kedah, Penang and Perlis. 

“These three dams also supply water to the Muda Irrigation Scheme, which is the Rice Bowl of Malaysia producing nearly 50% of the national requirement,'' he said, adding that the MNS had submitted its views to the Department of Environment (DOE).  

Pang was commenting on the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment Report (DEIA) for the helicopter-harvesting project in Kedah that was put on display at DOE offices since Dec 5, for public feedback. The display ends today.  

The DEIA, prepared by Sibu-based logging concessionaire WTK Holdings Sdn Bhd with Tuju Jauh Sdn Bhd as the project consultant, stated that the impact of logging could be minimised by heli-harvesting only three trees per 0.405ha.  

However, Pang pointed out that the DEIA failed to highlight the potential impact of the construction of logging roads, measuring 401.4km by 10m wide. 

“Since most of the project area is made up of steep hills with slopes exceeding 25 degrees, it is foreseeable that there will be severe soil erosion that can cause landslides and sedimentation of nearby rivers. 

“The increased sediment load and turbidity level, as stated by the DEIA, will have a negative effect on fishes and other aquatic animals,” he said. 

He added that logging roads would continue to provide access for poachers, illegal plant collectors, unregulated thrill-seekers as well as illegal settlers and farmers long after the logging activities stopped. 

The DEIA also acknowledged that the Ulu Muda forests contained a very high degree of biodiversity and urged caution on logging activities. 

The report stated that there were 47 endemic or rare plant species out of the 270 plant species surveyed on a 100m by 20m area.  

It also stated that from interviews with the locals and the wildlife department, the forests were found to have 102 protected bird species and eight endangered ones, including the Black Hornbill, the Hill Mynah, the White Rumped Sharma, the Malay Peacock Pheasant and the Kuang Raya Gunung. 

Pang said instead of logging the forests, the state could alternatively take advantage of Ulu Muda's aesthetic beauty and abundance of wildlife as a major eco-tourism spot providing substantial revenue to the state government and job opportunities for locals. 

The Kedah state has given the green light to the WTK Holdings and the Yayasan Islam Kedah to undertake heli-logging on about 123,000ha of forest reserve areas over 10 years. 

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