SHAH ALAM, April 21 — Selangor must stop opening up its forest reserves for development, especially on two controversial highway projects, six activist groups said today after a lawmaker warned of an impending water shortage.
Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (PEKA Malaysia), Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), Save Greenlungs, Say No TO SUKE (SNTS) and Say No To Dash (SNTD) urged Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali to prioritise the people’s wellbeing ahead of infrastructure projects.
“An immediate halt to any efforts to degazette forest reserves, no further degazettement of any forest reserves in Selangor and a face-to-face meeting with the Selangor mentri besar regarding the degazettement issue to understand the situation and find a solution acceptable to all parties,” the groups said in a memorandum addressed to Azmin.
They called the state government to undertake a detailed study to verify the current size of the forest cover is above 31.5 per cent of the state’s land reserve, and to raise it to 40 per cent.
“We are worried because of news of depleting water resource and the degazettement was announced at at a time like this. We need our water catchment areas more than ever now, what with the atrocious heat. We are killing our forests for profit, disregarding what really matters,” PEKA Malaysia president Datuk Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil told a news conference outside the state secretariat building here.
STNS leader Muhammad Agos Abul Hasan Ashar expressed a similar view and pointed to Klang MP Charles Santiago warning yesterday that the Klang Valley may face a water crisis as soon as six weeks.
“Charles had given the statistics and fact to back his statement as well and now we are more concerned than ever. There should be an immediate response to this as it concerns us, the Selangor people,” he said.
“Development must not come at the expense of nature,” he added.
Muhammad Agos said the Selangor citizen groups are currently conducting petition drives for the public to show dissent against the degazettement.
The memorandum came after state’s Wildlife and National Parks Department published a notice in local dailies on March 16, informing the public that the Bukit Cherakah and the Sungai Buloh forest reserves will have its gazette status lifted to make way for the Damansara-Shah Alam Highway (DASH), while the Bukit Sungei Puteh Utara and Bukit Sungei Puteh Selatan forest reserves would be degazetted for the Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang expressway (SUKE).
Earlier this month, DASH opponents said that they may sue the Selangor state government after the courts halted land acquisition for construction of the SUKE in a separate lawsuit.
Four Selangor residents filed a judicial review application at the High Court last January 8 against land acquisition for the SUKE project and subsequently won leave last February 22 to proceed with the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs — Tan Wei Mia, Tan Wai Cheong, Tan Wai Chong and Tan Boon Chit — who had sued the Selangor state government and Selangor Land and Minerals Department, also won a stay order covering land that has already been gazetted for acquisition as well as land intended for acquisition, pending the judicial review.
In January, the Selangor Town and Country Planning Department informed SNTD that no approval had been given to the DASH concessionaire.
But news portal The Star Online subsequently reported that Projek Lintasan Kota Holdings Sdn Bhd’s (Prolintas) unit Turnpike Synergy Sdn Bhd had issued two letters inviting tenders for DASH and SUKE.
DASH will be a 20.1km, three-lane, dual carriageway expressway starting from Puncak Perdana in Shah Alam to the Penchala interchange. With 12 interchanges, the RM11.5 billion expressway plans to link drivers to Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong and Sprint highways, which residents claim are already congested during peak hours.
Apart from DASH, the Selangor government is also under fire over the little-known SUKE.