Logging under the shadow of the coronavirus

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Orang Asli protecting their land - File photo: Peka Malaysia Facebook

The authorities should take stern measures to protect the environment from any human intrusion that is clearly harmful to our existence, Mustafa K Anuar writes.

Certain loggers in Malaysia have – in a rather twisted manner – been making hay while the sun shines at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is still raging and killing more people in its path.

Environmentalists and indigenous tribes claimed that a protected forest in Perak has been cleared by loggers, particularly a patch of the Bukit Larut reserve, during the first phase of the movement control order period when people were and remain focused on the dangers of the deadly coronavirus.

The reserve is part of the Central Forest Spine (CFS), an ecological and protected patch of jungle that covers central Peninsular Malaysia and straddles eight states and four major forest complexes.

What is alarming, according to Yayasan Hasanah, a foundation of Khazanah Nasional Berhad, is that the Central Forest Spine has been degraded at an alarming rate owing to human intervention in the form of vegetation and forest clearance “for agriculture, settlement and infrastructure development”.

Moreover, the Central Forest Spine is vital as “the water tower of the peninsula” because it supplies raw water for 80% of the population. Water, as we are fully aware, is precious to our survival.

The supposedly insidious modus operandi merits investigation and appropriate measures taken by the authorities as it involves logging activities at a time when the tribes and activists can no longer monitor, let alone restrain, the loggers’ nefarious schemes because of the enforcement of the movement control order.

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The situation is more daunting in Sarawak. Indigenous people, particularly the Penan, are reportedly unable to monitor and hinder (through blockades) the activities of oil palm  and logging companies in protected forests because they are allowed by the state to engage in purportedly legitimate activities even under the movement control order.

It begs the question as to why perpetrators of illegal logging are not made accountable if they really have broken into a stretch of protected forest.

Surely, the clearing of protected forests is wrong and, therefore, the force of law should fall on the violators.

Also, why would actors of illegal land clearing be exempted from the movement control order?

The seemingly unhindered activities of the illegal loggers stand in stark contrast with the case of the poor and the needy who dare not venture out of their abode in search of food for fear of being caught under the movement control order.

Furthermore, food resources have become scarce for the indigenous people, whose habitat is the forest, because of activities that encroached into the natural environment over the years, such as logging, mining and human settlement.

Concerned Malaysians, especially the environmentalists, who are hoping that the coronavirus pandemic could paradoxically provide a much-needed breather for Mother Nature, would certainly feel outraged by what has been done by the illegal loggers.

The “breather” takes the form of, say, reduced environmental degradation as human intervention is presumed to have been severely restricted by the scourge.

More than that, it is anticipated that federal and state governments, policymakers, industrialists, business people and religious leaders in the country would learn important lessons from this pandemic, which include the need to rethink the way humans relate to nature and avoid an environmental backlash.

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There is a dire need for us to exist in harmony with nature, which, incidentally, is part of divine creation.

It is in this regard that we also hope that the Ministry of Environment and Water (controversially and temporarily rebranded as Mewa), particularly its new minister, Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, would take appropriate and stern measures to protect the environment from any human intrusion that is clearly harmful to our existence.

Source: themalaysianinsight.com

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