Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Letter to the Editor: Halt Logging In The Terenggun Virgin Forest Reserve

The Pahang Menteri Besar’s statement disavowing responsibility for logging in the Terenggun Virgin Forest Reserve (VFR) in Kuala Lipis defies logic and the principles of accountability and transparency.
If, as the MB stated, no logging permits have been issued for the Terenggun VFR, then the tree-felling activities must necessarily be illegal, whether the logging is for the purpose of the timber industry or for road construction, as claimed in his statement dated 20th August 2016.
Based on observable facts and basic civil engineering practices, there are no instances in which timber is utilised in modern-day road construction in Malaysia. It follows therefore that the trees were felled to clear the way for road construction and the timber became just another source of income.
Either possibility is an alarming one, as neither logging nor road construction should be permitted in a forest reserve, especially one with such high biodiversity as the Terenggun VFR. Logging and road construction in Terenggun would affect air and water quality, destroy vital watersheds leading to the increased risk of flash floods, landslides and drought, fragmentise and annihilate wildlife habitats and hasten the extinction of wildlife.
There is no environmental or traffic impact assessment report to indicate that there is a necessity for a road to be constructed through the Terenggun VFR. Opening up a road in a forest reserve would simply create access for illegal loggers, hunters and wildlife poachers. Constructing a road through this ecologically-sensitive area would not alleviate any traffic problems or improve the quality of life of Pahang citizens in any way. It would instead cause both human and animal populations to suffer adverse effects from the reduced air and water quality and increased carbon emissions, human-wildlife conflicts and traffic fatalities.
It is clear from the ambiguous response of the authorities on the issue of logging in the Terenggun VFR that the forest-clearing was carried out in a highly irregular manner without complying with proper procedures or without any proper assessments or reports.
As a concerned citizen, I therefore urge the Pahang State Government and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) to put an immediate stop to logging in the Terenggun VFR and other forest reserves, and take steps to protect forests and wildlife.
Tropical rainforests have more economic value intact than degraded, due to the ecological and sociocultural services they provide. Pahang stands to gain more economic benefits from keeping its forests intact and biologically diverse, than from issuing permits for logging, mining and road construction in forested areas. Pahang is well-known for, among others, its national parks and great ecotourism potential, and therefore there are economic and cultural incentives for conserving its forest reserves and promoting sustainable use of its forest resources. 
The state forestry authorities are entrusted with the honoured duty of monitoring and protecting forest reserves and gazetted areas. There are no defensible reasons why the state forestry department would condone or be ignorant of any intrusions of such degree.
There are countless concerned and civic-minded citizens and environmental organisations who are willing to assist the government and forestry authorities in monitoring and protecting our rainforests and wildlife, should the need arise. Civil society’s readiness to play its part in conservation efforts must now be matched by political will on the part of state and federal authorities and enforcement agencies to protect and conserve forest reserves.

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