Kelantan Deforestation Policies Need Urgent Answers

It was only last year that the great floods - dubbed the worst flood in Malaysian history since 1971 - hit Malaysia from Dec 22, 2014 to Jan 3, 2015. More than 200,000 people were displace while 21 lost their lives.

At the height of the crisis, KELANTAN Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob had then blamed “illegal land clearing and logging” as among the causes for the devastating floods in the state. He claimed the government had always capped logging at 5,960ha a year, the standard set by the National Land Council.

So it comes as a shock to discover that Kelantan has recently approved an additional 4,500 hectares to a private company for logging, while 9,000 acres are to be used for palm oil tree planting.

This was recently revealed in a statement by PAS Salak assemblyman Dato Husam Musa, who felt compelled to expose the matter as he had not received a response from the state government despite several letters sent to the relevant authorities, to express his concerns.

In his statement, Husam claimed that the prvate companies had obtained several approvals from the state government, raising the question if only selected crony companies are benefitting from the state’s generosity.

The Center to Combat Corruption and Corruption (C4) views this matter with great concern, as such practises are breeding ground for corruption and cronyism. C4 wants the Kelantan government to reveal if the award of these multiple approvals have breached the state's annual logging cap.

Without an open tender system and proper policies outlining the state’s approval procedures for such activities, more questions arise: Who is benefitting from this concessions or repeated approvals, what are the merits of the company, and why has it been given several approvals to clear the forests?

In the interest of transparency and accountability, C4 urges the Kelantan government to urgently:
1. Reconsider the approval given to the private company, to reveal the merits of the company, and explain why it has been given the company several approvals to carry out logging activities.

2. Consider the affect of such clearing of trees would have on the environment, in light of last year’s massive flood. Such massive clearing of trees also lead to global warming and draught, a situation which Kelantan can ill afford, being one of the poorest state in the country.

3. Look into drafting a policy on land clearing, and for the procedures to be implemented in a transparent and accountable manner. Kelantan can emulate its neighbour in Pahang, where its state assembly has recently called for more stringent requirements to be imposed on loggers in the state to ensure that contractors carry out logging activities in the state more responsibly.

4. Review the concerns raised by Sahabat Alam Sekitar Malaysia (SAM) which claimed that a large tract of Kelantan’s permanent reserve forests (PRF) had been felled to be converted into plantation forests. According to the state Forestry Department records, SAM claimed that a total of 41 licences were approved for logging concessions in the permanent forest reserves in south Kelantan including Gua Musang and Lojing.

5. Consider a complete removal of forest plantation practices
C4 also calls upon the Federal Government to draft and implement proper national forest policies, where the current National Forest Act must be drafted and amended based on the spirit of sustainable forest policy. The Act must include articles to ensure there is reduction in timber harvesting, prioritising of forest regeneration, where the wishes of local indigenous communities in the PRF must be respected.

Indeed, it is a sad day for Kelantanese if the state government has learnt nothing from the great floods of 2014.

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Executive Director