KUALA ROMPIN: A jungle area the size of Cyberjaya is being logged in the middle of one of Pahang’s most important forests to make way for possible rubber plantations.
Earmarked by the Pahang government, some 3,000ha of the Lesong permanent reserve forest is currently being cleared, with an untold number of logs being taken out of the jungle every day.
The Pahang Forestry Department defends the move as legal, saying it has been approved by the state’s executive council and only affects areas known as “degraded forest”.
Environmentalists, however, are up in arms, saying that although the state has the legal right to do so, the move could have devastating effects on Malaysian wildlife.
In two separate visits to Lesong in mid-July, The Star observed a flurry of logging in more than a dozen sites in the forest.
Entire hills had been cleared from top to bottom, with tracks crisscrossing them to make it easier for vehicles to reach the summits.
The first such site in the eastern part of the reserve was clearly seen just one or two kilometres from an oil palm plantation, with felled trees and smashed foliage mere metres from a state-erected sign forbidding logging. Trucks were seen at some of these sites carrying logs from centres out of the jungle.
Signs stating that the logging had been permitted were also displayed at many of these sites.
Several logging camps, complete with heavy machinery and foreign workers, were connected to each other by roads wide enough for the trucks.
Though no wildlife was spotted in the area, there were elephant tracks and dung on some of these roads.
Loggers there observed The Star with suspicion and a few warned us not to take photos, but they did not interfere.
Many of the large logs gathered within the jungle – some collected in the hundreds – were then carried out in the trucks to a site east of the forest reserve, less than 10km away.
In one such area, well over a few hundred logs were left waiting to be transported.
A few rivers were also rendered stagnant, their flow blocked by debris – presumably dumped there by loggers.
As we travelled through the jungle, we observed portions of the forest that appeared to have been logged years before, overgrown with bush no more than a few metres high.
An orang asli who only wanted to be known as Juba said loggers had been frequenting the forest for many years but the activity had heightened since the beginning of the year.
He added that the loggers had been working nearly every day since then.
According to the National Tiger Action Plan, Lesong comes under the Endau-Rompin Complex, one of the three tiger priority areas in the country.
It is not known how much the concessionaries could gain from the logs removed from the forest.
The Pahang State Forestry Department said the expected harvestable volume was about 50 to 116 cubic metres per hectare.
Forest researcher Lim Teck Wyn told The Star that logged timber was generally worth RM1,000 per cubic metre.
Even at a conservative estimate, the amount of logged timber from the 3,000ha could be worth RM150mil.Related stories:
Continued development of forest may cause extinction and conflict, warn experts
Dept: Poor timber quality the reason for forest clearing