SUNGAI PETANI: Almost a year after rampant logging near the Ulu Muda reserve that affected the water catchment area and dam there was exposed, a new trail for timber lorries has been found.
The new trail at the catchment area in the forest reserve near Sik, is believed to have been used by loggers since early this year.
The 5m wide trail is more than 15km long and it runs uphill along the Ulu Muda lake.
A check by The Star on Wednesday revealed hundreds of logs stacked at the base site. There was also heavy machinery parked there.
A signboard at the base site showed that a permit has been issued by the Kedah Tengah District forestry officer in Sungai Petani to a licence holder to carry out logging at secondary roads 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 118 and 177.
The name of the contractor is also stated in the board. The permit is valid until May 1. It came into effect on Nov 2 last year.
There is another signboard which states that the licence holder is Perbadanan Menteri Besar Kedah. The area is listed as 200ha with the permit valid from July 3 to Oct 4, last year.
The Ulu Muda forest reserve stretches from the Malaysian border with Thailand at Yala to Baling in the north of Perak and is about twice the size of Singapore. It is said to be a paradise for nature and wildlife lovers.
Although logging there seems to be legal, the question really is: Why is logging allowed at the crucial water catchment area?
Universiti Sains Malaysia water resources, hydrology and flood hazard management and climatology expert Prof Dr Chan Ngai Weng said the Kedah government should gazette the place as a water catchment area.
“Once that is done, there can be no logging there. We are very concerned about the impact of logging at the catchment area.
“Rain water does not go into the ground. The water runs off into the river and then, into the sea.”
“Logging will expose the land. Rain splash erosion and surface erosion will wash sediments into the rivers, causing water pollution and the shallowing of river beds.
“Consequently, rivers’ drainage capacities will be significantly reduced," Chan said, adding that the quality of the water supplied to the people in surrounding areas would also be affected.
He called on the state and Federal governments to take measures at the Ulu Muda reserve forests so that soil erosion, soil sediments and silt are stopped from getting into the water and river systems.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Nature Society Penang branch adviser D. Kanda Kumar said Kedah had been logging the forest for a long time.
He said water from the Sungai Muda river was used for agriculture and as supply for Kedah and Penang. “Water from the Muda Dam is pumped to the Pedu Dam and it is primarily used for the Muda irrigation scheme of about 97,000ha of padi.
“Intense logging there will determine how much top soil on the hills is washed into the river,” he said.
Last May, a check by The Star showed that at least five logging depots, with thousands of high-quality logs such as Meranti, Cengal and Merbau, were waiting to be transported out to their processing destinations.
The logging depots were about the size of 30 football fields and it is believed that there were more such depots deeper inside the forest.