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KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 — Conservationists warned today of the potential devastation that would follow the Selangor government’s plan to degazette the Kuala Langat Forest Reserve (North).
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) said the forest reserve houses some of the most endangered wildlife in the country, while its peat swamp helps insulate nearby lands from floods.
The 930.93 hectare land is also home to over 2,000 Temuan Orang Asli families, whose connection to the forest spans centuries.
“Preserving the Kuala Langat North FR is crucial because it balances physical development and environmental conservation,” the group said in a statement.
“The state authorities must also take into consideration the Orang Asli community of the Temuan tribe which number over 2,000 and whose livelihoods are dependent on the natural wildlife in the forest reserve,” it added.
“Apart from that the Kuala Langat North FR also acts as a natural insulator against floods because of the peat swamps that make nearly all the forest land.”
The Selangor government said earlier this month it plans to develop 930.93 acres of the 958 acre forest reserve. The proposed degazetting was advertised in major newspapers on February 5.
The move was met with stern opposition. Representatives of the local Temuan tribes said it could mount a legal challenge against what they saw was encroachment on their ancestral land, and have quickly garnered support.
The tribes said the degazettement could displace hundreds of families whose livelihood depends on the forest’s rich natural resources.
Some of the country’s most endangered animal wildlife can be found in the forest reserve, such as the Sun Bear and the state’s smallest flying squirrel. Its swamps are also rich with aquatic life where the only remaining wild Betta fish can be found, SAM said.
The group has called on the Selangor authorities to reject the degazettement, saying the move ran contrary to the Selangor Forestry Department’s own pledge to preserve and expand the state’s forest reserves.
“The proposed degazettement also contradicts the objective and target of the Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Department to achieve five million hactre of forest reserve,” it said.
What Selangor plans for the land remains unclear. But Singapore’s Straits Times (ST) reported on Friday that the Pakatan Harapan administration is facing a clash of interests involving a company said to have links to the state’s royal family.
Despite mounting criticism, Selangor Mentri Besar Amirudin Shari has stuck by his plan to degazette the forest reserve on the grounds that nearly half the forest area has already become “degraded” due to fires and damages.