Halt logging near forest reserves

FORESTRY authorities claim logging in Batu Yon and near the Merapoh Forest Reserve in Kuala Lipis is carried out in land owned by the Agriculture Industrial Development Board.

The Merapoh forest is home to endangered species, which include elephants, tigers, tapirs, sun bears and deer, as well as rare plants such as the rafflesia.

Its limestone caves form a vital part of our natural heritage. All these natural wonders are now under threat as a result of logging and roadworks.

Agricultural land near gazetted forest reserves are still critical water catchment areas and wildlife habitats. It is simplistic to claim that agricultural, recreational or rural residential areas near forest reserves are fair game for logging and development since they do not constitute the forest reserve land proper.

Opening up logging roads near forest reserves has knock-on effects and affects the reserve adversely. Statistical evidence shows that logging roads increase access for poachers and hunters into sensitive wildlife habitats and increase the incidence of human-wildlife conflict and roadkill.

Sadly, in Southeast Asia where up to 48% of all native mammal species are predicted to be extinct by 2100, roads continue to be opened up for logging, mining and transporting forest products, despite the data that forested land is worth much more intact than when depleted, logged or converted into plantations. The economic benefits of logging are short-lived and can sustain only one to two generations at most.

Not only are the Merapoh Caves a sensitive wildlife habitat, they are also an important eco-tourism site. Logging and deforestation near the caves will have a severe negative impact on the rural communities whose livelihood depend on ecotourism and subsistence farming and fishing in areas that are now polluted, depleted and exposed.

Apart from the threat it poses to wildlife, logging and deforestation also affect air quality, climate and water cycle patterns. Healthy forests absorb solar energy and release water vapour, while forest clearing releases stored carbon dioxide. The destruction of watershed areas will result in more floods, landslides and drought, thus costing the state and federal governments more in disaster management and mitigation than they are able to benefit from issuing permits for logging, mining and agriculture.

Wong Ee Lynn
Green Living
Special Interest Group
Malaysian Nature Society