SHAH ALAM: The Selangor government will replace the 931 hectares that will be de-gazetted from the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR) area, says Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari (pic).
"The state government has plans to gazette a bigger area as a forest reserve to replace the area that will be de-gazetted," said Amirudin at a press conference on Thursday (Feb 20).
He said the state had a list of suitable areas located in Kuala Selangor, Sabak Bernam as well as in Hulu Selangor to choose from and that the Selangor government would add almost 162 hectares to the new area.
"The state government is still committed to maintaining the forest reserves," he said, adding that there are 70 forest reserves in Selangor.
Amirudin also responded to criticism levelled against the state government regarding this, saying that such criticism is baseless and erroneous.
He also said that all the fuss raised on social media is premature and that the state government will ensure everything is taken into consideration before the degazettement takes place.
"Some of the allegations are premature, while some are baseless and some are untrue," said Amirudin.
Previously, an online portal had quoted Kuala Langat MP Dr Xavier Jayakumar saying he wanted the proposed de-gazettement to be halted.
The Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister had said green lungs should not be destroyed for development and added that he was concerned about the Orang Asli villages and natural habitat there.
Aside from Xavier, Selangor PKR Youth communications director Mohd Khairool Ngadon had also issued a statement saying that the state youth wing is protesting the proposed de-gazettement plan.
He had said that the structure of the peat soil makes the KLNFR a significant underground water catchment area and added that it is a roaming area for Orang Asli from the Temuan tribe.
Similar views were shared by PKR veterans group Otai Reformis 1998, who also issued a statement criticising the move.
Its secretary Abdul Razak Ismail said he was shocked by the proposed degazettement, which he described as an "irresponsible move" by the state Forestry Department.
"It is indicative of the state government's lack of care towards protecting the environment, forests and its habitat," said Abdul Razak.
Responding to this, Amirudin said that the state is only in the second stage of the de-gazettement process, and added that a public hearing is ongoing.
He then said that the public hearing process would end on March 5.
"We are currently receiving, evaluating and considering the protests and issues raised in regards to the de-gazettement in totality," said Amirudin, adding that everything would be considered before the final decision is made.
He also said that the Orang Asli settlements were not included in the de-gazettement areas and will remain there even if the de-gazettement goes through.
"There are four Orang Asli villages with about 1,000 people and we will not be encroaching into their areas," he added.
Amirudin also said that approximately 40% of the proposed area consisted of forests that have been damaged by fire, adding that these areas lack the elements that a jungle should have.
"In some areas, there are no trees or an ecosystem synonymous with forests," he added.
He then said that the de-gazettement will change the facet of the damaged forest area to be in tandem with the surrounding location which has developments by Selangor Business Capital, PKNS (Selangor State Development Corporation) and Gamuda Berhad.
Amirudin then said that the replacement peat soil swamp forests are thriving with good ecosystem that has never been encroached or damaged.
He said one of the new replacement areas is located in Sungai Panjang, Kuala Selangor and would connect the KLNFR with the Raja Muda Musa Forrest making the state the owner of the biggest peat soil forest in the peninsula.