Monday, April 15, 2013

Rampant agribusiness malpractices- Part 4-2: Rape of Lojing Highlands (end)

Figure 1 : A massive logging and land clearing project in Lojing (see Flickr )

A massive logging and land clearing project in Lojing, Kelantan State

Figure 1 is a picture of the Lojing Highlands. A lot of change are taking place in this atrea which have significant impacts on agribusiness and economic growth. Ten years ago these vegetable and flower farms were not all there (see “Syeds out of the box”).

Find here a video of the aerial view of Lojing settlement in Gua Musang with forest clearing going on “You Tube”.

The question that is being asked by Malaysian environment activists is why Kelantan is still clearing hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest with almost total disregard to the grave impacts on the human beings and wildlife that depend on these forests? Replacing forest with LCTs is destroying biodiversity (see “Rubber Forests”).

As explained before: land, forestry, agriculture and rivers are State matters. Therefore the Federal Government cannot do much but provide advice. 

But clearly, all this “advice” is useless and Kelantan has flouted almost every single well-intentioned key policy made at the Federal level as explained before. 

This clearing is taking place possibly without EIA as alleged by BN/UMNO. 

The allegation, however, is made where this same political party may still have endorsed this project when it was in power in Kelantan and has not been exemplary while regulating Cameron Highlands.  

This might be highlighted by BN / UMNO as an electoral argument in the run-up for the 13th general elections, now scheduled for next month. 

Certainly the political context leaves environmentalists in a dilemma. But what really happens in Lojing is really destructive to the environment and a much larger scale than what has been done at Cameron. 

This happens 1,000 m above sea level, where the clearance is supposed to be illegal in the first place.

The death of Sungai Betatop and Sungai Legid

Sungai Betatop
(see The Star)

Orang Asli Seng Sang village is the nearest to Lojing Highlands. The river, the Sungai Belatop, flowing from the mountain is the main source of water for residents here.

The villagers in Seng Sang village lived peacefully while using the resources provided by nature that surrounds them.

Figure 2 : Sungai Belatop next to the orang asli Seng Sang village

The river suddenly took a muddy color while the jungle, where they used to hunt and collect forest products, had become barren. All the valuable timber in the area was logged. The developers were going to set up a vegetable farm that would not even belong to them.

Villagers said the state government did not appear to be concerned about their welfare and did not look into their problems. 

Making matters worse, they faced a new dilemma when it refused to grant them their land titles. 

The state government, sometime ago, had promised to bestow to the villagers  the grants to their land and houses, but reneged on this without any apparent reason.

Without the grants, it means that houses built in this village can be seized by the state government at anytime.

Sungai Legid
(see “Rubber Forests”)

Sungai Legid died during the Christmas of 2011, the villagers have had to make daily treks further into the Perias Forest Reserve to collect clean water for drinking. 

Bathing and washing has had to be done in the Sungai Betis, a river originating from Lojing highlands. The water in Sungai Betis is looking like teh tarik, due to the vast, uncontrolled land clearing that is ongoing in the mountains. 

But (see Figure 3) have you ever seen a stream so completely damaged that it holds nothing other than logs and debris; that its once picturesque waterfalls, pools and eddies now resemble a quarry site; that its water sees no option other than to hide underground, only to be tainted blood red by iron oxides in the soil when it reappears to meet the sky again?

Figure 3:  This place in Sungai Legid used to be a water fall (see "Rubber Forest")

Anyway, after laying low for a few months, the logging contractors are back at it again.

Even though the village headman had told them on no uncertain terms that he would not allow them to resume clear-felling the hill (which, by the way contains the only patch of rainforest left in the area), the chainsaws, logging trucks and bulldozers have returned to Bukit Sanyer in full force.

Make no mistake: there is nothing “illegal” about this logging. It’s actually “clear-felling” – every single tree is to be taken out and replaced with oil palm.

This is a state-sanctioned activity by government-appointed contractors facilitated by the Kelantan Forestry Department.