GEORGE TOWN, July 11 — The Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) insisted today that a major portion of the Ulu Muda rainforests in Kedah is still not protected as a water catchment area despite being gazetted as “permanent reserve forests”.
PBAPP chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa said only 16 per cent of the Ulu Muda rainforests, about 17,025ha, was gazetted as “water catchment forests” under Section 10 (1) of the National Forestry Act 1984 (NFA).
“This means 84 per cent of the rainforests in Ulu Muda are not protected as water catchment areas for the benefit of 4.2 million people living in Perlis, Kedah and Penang,” he said.
He said the Ministry of Water, Land and Natural Resources confirmed that 106,418 ha of rainforests in Ulu Muda was gazetted as “Permanent Reserve Forests” by Kedah state authorities, under Section 7 of the NFA.
However, Jaseni said the NFA has provisions for logging even under Section 10 (1) that states a permanent reserve forest can be classified as a timber production forest with sustained yields.
He then demanded to know the NFA classification for the 84 per cent of rainforests in Ulu Muda gazetted as permanent reserve forests.
“Has Kedah classified any areas in Ulu Muda as ‘Timber Production Forests’ under the NFA? If so, how has Kedah “banned logging” in Ulu Muda?” he asked.
He claimed that groups such as Friends of Ulu Muda and WWF-Malaysia have said the Ulu Muda Forest covers a total area of about 160,000ha but only 106,418ha was gazetted.
“What is the status of the other 53,582 ha?” he asked.
He said Ulu Muda should be classified as a “forest for federal purposes” under the NFA to ensure that Ulu Muda is not destroyed.
“Perlis, Kedah and Penang are highly dependent on Ulu Muda as a regional water catchment area,” he said.
He said this means any timber production in Ulu Muda will adversely affect water supply services in the three states.
“The conservation of Ulu Muda as a regional water catchment area should be prioritised as a critical raw water management issue, and not a forestry issue,” he said.
He added that to the federal government must also compensate Kedah in a fair manner in order to sustainably conserve Ulu Muda legally.