Respect DOE’s decision and leave peat swamp forests alone, NGO tells Selangor

WITH the Department of Environment (DOE) throwing a spanner into Selangor State Agriculture Corporation (PKPS) works, a coalition of environmental non-governmental organisations urged the latter to take stock and respect environmental law.

“We support DOE’s action and hope PKPS will comply with the order as the establishment is still clearing the land.

“Other Government agencies also need to support and assist the DOE by upholding our environmental laws and coordinate with all parties, including Government-linked companies,” Global Environment Centre forest and coastal programme manager R Nagarajan told FocusM.

On April 6, the coalition urged the Selangor state government to stop the clearance of 2,400 acres of peat swamp forest in Sabak Bernam by PKPS to establish the Selangor Smart Agro Park (SSAP), saying it would create untold damage to the ecology.

“PKPS is planning to clear and drain the peat swamp forest, which is a critical habitat for rare wildlife and fish species found nowhere else on the planet.

“And we’re appalled that logging and clearance of the forest in already underway, despite not having an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report done,” the Coalition for the Protection of Selangor Forests said, in a statement.

An EIA is mandatory for all projects involving clearing and draining more than 20ha of peat swamp forest for agriculture or other uses.

It was said that PKPS had earlier planned to develop the site for an oil palm project but ditched it after being told that the national policy does not allow development of oil palm on peatland or forest areas.

Protect, preserve forested areas

In a rebuke to PKPS, DOE director Norlin Jaafar said on Thursday that the state GLC did not submit an EIA report on the SSAP project.

“Based on our records, PKPS did not submit any EIA report as per the requirement under Section 34A (6) of the Environmental Quality Act 1974,” she was reported saying.

Touching on the matter, Nagarajan urged the Selangor state government to reconsider the proposed project, adding that it should adopt a policy of no development on forested areas.

“The area to be developed is one of the most sensitive ecosystems and can cause long-term impactful problems, such as draining of out peat water and cause fires during dry spells period, floods during the rainy season and animal conflicts between humans.

“Plus, most countries are working to stop the clearing of peat swamp forest areas and prioritise conservation. These forests are our heritage and the lifeblood of important water resources and carbon storage,” he stated.

Nagarajan opined that the Government should reject the conventional development trajectory of “grow first, clean up later” and embrace sustainability dimension in its approach.

“And it includes initiatives to reduce climate change, disaster risk management, and carbon emissions, as well as the sustainable management of Permanent Reserved Forest for the long term to protect the environment,” he remarked. – April 17, 2021.

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