It is appalling to know that Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari is reportedly still mulling to degazette 931ha of peat forest in the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve for “development” despite receiving more than 40,000 objections from civil society groups and individuals.
On top of that, the Selangor state assembly had already approved a motion urging the state government to preserve gazetted forest reserves in the state.
Concerned Malaysians are deeply troubled by the serious impact this so-called development plan has on the environment, precious biodiversity and endangered species and wildlife. The potential damage is clearly irreversible.
To denude the forest is also to contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases, which is counterproductive. Lest we forget, forests absorb and store carbon dioxide.
Equally serious, the culture and livelihoods of the Orang Asli communities, particularly the Temuan, in the area will be disrupted needlessly. About 2,000 Temuan tribe people risk being displaced from their ancestral land if the plan for development materialises.
These guardians of the forest and the environment are stakeholders whose concerns and welfare must be taken into account by the Selangor government before embarking on such a controversial project.
Besides, the marginalisation of the Orang Asli in this manner suggests that their indigeneity does not mean much to the powers that be.
In a thriving democracy, the voice of the people should prevail over any attempt by a government that tends to bulldoze, especially if it involves a project that goes against the common interests of the people.
It is also horrendous if such arrogant behaviour is associated with a Pakatan Harapan state government that is expected to be more reformist and attuned to the concerns of the people it supposedly represents.
To be sure, the conflict between environmentalists, indigenous communities and nature lovers on one hand, and state governments and corporations on the other, is a protracted one and it has become all the more intensified in recent years by the nagging concern about climate change that affects us all.
Like many other countries blessed with large swathes of forests, such as Paraguay, Brazil and Indonesia, Malaysia has seen a rapid rate of deforestation over the years, a fact that should raise a red flag not only to the vigilant environmentalists but especially government leaders.
A 2013 Google forest map, for instance, showed that Malaysia had the world’s highest rate of forest loss of 47,278 sq km – an area larger than Denmark – between 2000 and 2012. This is an ‘achievement’ that is obviously shameful and worrying.
With this immense loss in mind, our leaders should be more circumspect when pursuing the kind of development that has implications for environmental degradation and climate change.
It is crucial that official policies and planning are crafted and adequate funding allocated to address squarely the vital issue of climate change in the years to come for the overall welfare of the people, especially the younger generation.
Additionally, it is important that political and corporate leaders seriously make a paradigm shift so that all green areas in the country are not necessarily targeted as lucrative opportunities.
Even if there are certain areas considered suitable for “development”, a thought should also be given to the needs of future generations.
Warmer temperature, flash floods, insufficient food and polluted air and water, among other menacing things, should not be the legacy of the present generation. We should not squander the future of our future generations. – The Malaysian Insight