Selangor clearing another peat swamp forest without EIA, say groups

Aminah Farid

The Coalition for the Protection of Selangor’s Forests says the Selangor State Agricultural Development Corporation will drain nearly 1,000ha of peat swamp forest in Sabak Bernam if it continues with its agriculture project. – Facebook pic, April 8, 2021.

WORK to clear some 970ha of peat swamp forest in Sabak Bernam, Selangor, by a state government agency has started despite no environmental impact assessment (EIA) report being prepared, said green conservation groups.

The Coalition for the Protection of Selangor’s Forests, comprising the Global Environment Centre (GEC), Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES), is urging the Selangor government to stop logging immediately as the area is an integral part of the North Selangor Peat Swamp Forest.

The clearing work by the Selangor State Agricultural Development Corporation (PKPS) will drain nearly 1,000ha of peat swamp forest, which is a critical habitat for rare wildlife and fish species found nowhere else on the planet, the coalition said.

“Logging and clearance of the forest are already underway, even though no EIA report has been prepared,” it said.

It noted that an EIA study is mandatory under the EIA Order 2015 for all projects proposing to clear and drain more than 20ha of peat swamp forest for agriculture or other uses.

Nagarajan Rengasamy of GEC told The Malaysian Insight that the group’s team detected clearing of the site on March 15.

“We detected the clearing about a month ago but the site was definitely cleared much earlier before it was detected,” he said, adding that GEC has a monitoring team that checks on the site once a month.

The coalition learnt that PKPS earlier planned to develop the site for oil palm cultivation, but abandoned that proposal after confirming that national land use policies do not allow development of oil palm plantations on peatland.

However, the project has now been repackaged as “Selangor Smart Agro Park (SSAP)” and will still involve a palm oil mill but will plant coconut palms to exploit a loophole in the national policy, the coalition said.

Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari last month officiated at the launch of the Selangor Smart Agro Park project, which he claimed would increase food security for the people.

“PKPS started preparing an EIA for the earlier oil palm project but abandoned it when it changed the project type, even though an EIA is mandatory for all agriculture schemes or projects larger than 20ha in peat swamp forests,” said the coalition.

It argued that the proposed site is of global significance for the peatland biodiversity with a unique ecosystem that harbours many globally near threatened, vulnerable and endangered species.

These include rare mammals such as panthers, sun bears and tapirs. The peat swamp forest is also a key habitat for hornbills and many other endangered bird species.

The area has been designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) under the National Physical Plan 3 (2016-2020).

“On top of that, the area is specified for protection under the Selangor State Structure Plan 2035,” the coalition said.

The peatland area is also critical for carbon storage with an average peat depth of six metres, storing more than three million tons of carbon, equivalent to 12 million tons of carbon dioxide, worth a minimum of RM240 million.

“In view of this, efforts should be initiated to secure national and international funding to protect the peatlands in order to meet Malaysia’s international obligations under the Paris Agreement as well as to address global climate change,” the coalition said.

It warned that the drainage of the site will lead to peat subsidence that will also increase the flood risk along the Tanjung Malim-Sabak Bernam road and in the adjacent oil palm estates of PKPS.

“It will also lead to a significant increase in peatland fire risks and degradation of the adjacent Sungai Karang Forest Reserve, another ESA,” the coalition said.

It further reiterated that conversion of intact peat swamp forest into agriculture is not in line with the stated policy of the Malaysian government to conserve all remaining intact peat swamp forests.

“It is also not in line with our National Action Plan on Peatland (2011-2020) or National Biodiversity Policy (2016-2025). Continuing the development of a palm oil mill and agriculture will further jeopardise the reputation of Malaysian palm oil and agricultural industries,” it said.

It questioned why Amirudin was going back on his word after announcing last year that the same area would be gazetted as an extension to the Sungai Karang Forest Reserve to protect it for the long term.

“Why is the state going back on its word?” the coalition asked.

“We, therefore, call for an immediate halt to the development and clearance of the peat swamp forest area, pending a full review of the project and preparation of an EIA.”

Amirudin in February last year said part of the peat swamp forest in Sabak Bernam would be gazetted so as to replace the Kuala Langat (North) Forest Reserve – another area the state wants to develop closer to Putrajaya and Cyberjaya. – April 8, 2021.

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  • With so many solid and valid reasons to why that area should not be disturbed in the name of development, why cant any action be taken against the culprits and defying parties? One moment the authorities speak about protecting nature, forest and biodiversity, and the next moment ravage it.
    Such sad state.

    Posted 9 months ago by Radhika Sathya

  • On a day when it is reported the highest level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ever recorded! Malaysians are already suffering from the change in climate- this will make matters even worse. The greed and corrupt are making Malaysia unliveable.

    Posted 9 months ago by Malaysia New hope