KOTA BARU: The Kelantan state government claims it has gazetted about 21% of permanent forest reserves (PFR) as "water catchment forests" to show its commitment towards forest conservation.
Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob (pic) announced that the state had on Wednesday (Sept 26) approved the gazetting of 92,697 ha of forest reserve as water catchment forest, bringing the total area gazetted so far to 128,595 ha.
"It (water catchment forest) now makes up 20.97% of the 613,275 ha of PFR.
"We are committed to safeguarding forest and ensuring environmental sustainability in Kelantan," Ahmad said in a statement.
Water catchment areas must be preserved to protect water resources and ensure continuous water supply, he said.
He said since 2008, the state government had gazetted 35,898 ha (5.85% of permanent forest reserves) as water catchment forest, and on Wednesday they expanded the gazetted zone by another 92,697 ha.
"It involves 70 compartments in 11 districts," he said.
The Star has previously reported that permanent forest reserves (PFR) are, in reality, not that "permanent" as they can be logged, supposedly in a "sustainable" way.
Even worse, a loophole in the law has been allowing such forests to be cut down totally and converted into plantations of rubber trees (and also durian, teak, acacia and mahogony), as seen in many interior areas of Kelantan.
This has caused conflicts with the orang asli, who claim these forests as ancestral home lands. In addition, environmentalists have pointed out that such single-species plantations have led to soil erosion, floods, loss of rich biodiversity and loss of habitats for wildlife.
However, classification of PFR as "water catchment forests" is better, as it gives an extra level of protection. However logging is still possible, supposedly under more stringent criteria.