Alarming news recently filtered out of Selangor: 1,326 acres or 54% of the 2,300-acre Kuala Langat north forest reserve would be ‘developed’ – or rather destroyed.
It was due to be sold to a private company for ‘mixed commercial development’.
These 8,000-year-old forests had been gazetted as ‘permanent forest reserves’ – a misnomer if there ever was one.
The Selangor government also reportedly “approved in principle” the proposed so-called “Petaling Jaya Dispersal Link”, a tolled highway (ka-ching!), which apparently is not much different from the earlier controversial Kidex plan.
These were terrible moves by a state government that was elected on a reform platform. Those behind these moves are a major disappointment to all those who voted for change.
Federal and state Pakatan Harapan leaders had to scramble to defuse the loud public outcry over these two developments and somehow get the state government to defer any final decisions on these projects.
The culprits behind these two controversies obviously do not understand the onslaught of climate change and how our precious forest reserves must be preserved and not destroyed.
Why the urgency for a highway when many people are now working from home, a trend that could be here to stay even when the pandemic is over and which should ease congestion on the roads. Why more commercial development when there is already a glut in commercial property and high-end housing.
A simple test
As there is now a lot of talk about the next generation of leaders, how about a simple test to weed out those politicians and leaders (whether from Perikatan Nasional, Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Harapan) who do not understand what sustainable development, ecological protection and curbs on emissions are about.
At the next general election, watch out for these tell-tale signs. Study their track records and development philosophy and ask candidates to state their stand on mega-projects and unsustainable development.
- Do not fall for politicians who love to indulge in mega-projects, eg unnecessary mega-dams and other superstructures that bring few tangible benefits to the people on the ground. Such projects invariably degrade the environment and destroy the biodiversity
- Do not vote for politicians who prioritise private motor vehicles and highways over sustainable mobility and public transport
- Do not vote for politicians who want to indulge in massive land reclamation
- Do not vote for politicians who sacrifice our forests and hills in the name of ‘development’ (think of all that logging going on in Sarawak and Kelantan and elsewhere)
- Reject politicians who sell off priceless natural assets for short-term gains
- Do not vote for politicians who show no interest in improving our public schools and public healthcare system
- Do not vote for politicians who seem more interested in high-end property development and neglect genuinely affordable housing
- Do not vote for politicians who fail to protect native customary land rights
Behind all the mega-projects, invariably, big money is not far away (and it is not for the people). So watch out for crony or vested interests hiding behind obscure companies. Follow the money trail.
Some politicians might argue that we need to open up new land because of ‘population pressure’.
Well, guess what? The total fertility rate (the number of children per couple) for the country has been falling. For instance, the rate in Selangor fell to just 1.6 children per couple in 2019. This is well below the population replacement rate of 2.1 children.
So why not promote greater use of public transport and stop building more highways?
Why not repurpose existing buildings and use them? After all, there is a glut of high-end property and many businesses and factories have shut down.
Given this, why do we need more highways and so many more large ‘mixed development’ projects?
Remember this at the next general election: Reject politicians who do not serve the public interest and who do not have the interests of the people and the ecosystem (the two are intertwined) at heart.