Sunday, April 16, 2006

SAVE BELUM-TEMENGGOR


The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) will launch the Save Belum-Temenggor 2006 campaign on April 20 in efforts to save the world's oldest rain forest from uncontrolled logging.

The group says all logging in the Belum-Temenggor forest reserves should be halted immediately, as the destruction to the environment far outweighs the financial benefits.

MNS' Science and Conservation Committee Chairman Anthony Sebastian said the six-month campaign is to urge the state government to reconsider its decision to allow logging on 300,000 hectares of the forest reserve.

The Malaysian Nature Society notes:

The contiguous Belum and Temenggor forest reserves form the second
largest remaining block of virgin forest in Peninsular Malaysia and the
largest example of the northern monsoonal Burmese-Thai forest vegetation
zone (Bamboo-Schima) in Malaysia. These forests are approximately 130
million years old, older than the Amazon and the Congo, and subsequently
much more complex in their biodiversity. They support populations of large
mammals and extensive stands of mixed dipterocarp forests over about
300,000 hectares, almost four times the size of Singapore, in one of the
least accessible or developed areas of the Peninsula. All ten hornbill
species of Malaysia can be found within this forest complex, including the
globally threatened Plain-pouched Hornbill, present in large flocks of more
than one thousand birds, a phenomenon not known to occur anywhere
else in the world."

The following is from the New Straits Times.


MNS wants a halt to logging in Belum-Temenggor

17 April, 2006

GRIK: All logging in the Belum-Temenggor forest reserve should be halted immediately as the damage to the environment far outweighs the financial benefits. The Malaysian Nature Society’s science and conservation committee chairman, Anthony Sebastian, said the revenue from logging in 2004 was only RM35.18 million.

"The question here is whether the Perak Government can forgo logging and look for some other source of revenue instead," he said.

"In my opinion, even if RM100 million is paid as compensation to the Perak Government (should all logging be stopped), it is still well below the true value of the Belum-Temenggor forest reserves."

The 130-million-year-old rainforest, which is older than the Amazon and the Congo, is under threat from both legal and illegal logging.

Sebastian said Belum-Temenggor had been identified as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) Rank 1 under the country’s National Physical Plan (NPP).

"This means no logging, agriculture or development is permitted and only low-impact ecotourism, education and research activities are allowed," he told reporters during a recent trip organised by the MNS to the Belum-Temenggor area.

The NPP, formulated in 1998, recommends the conservation of environmentally sensitive areas so that the present forest land use of 44.4 per cent can be retained or increased by 2020.

Sebastian said studies and research carried out by the MNS for the past 13 years in the 300,000ha rainforest area showed that significant damage had been caused by logging, including the loss of topsoil and tree cover.

"You can see how heavily silted some of these rivers here are and how choked by logs and other debris," he said, referring to Gadong and Sara rivers, respectively.

Continuous logging, he said, would lead to the siltation of many more rivers here and reduce the long-term viability of the Temenggor dam for electricity generation and as a source of water.

The MNS will launch a "Save Belum-Temenggor" campaign on Thursday in conjunction with Earth Day.

Some 50,000 postcards addressed to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohd Tajol Rosli Ghazali have been printed and are available free at all The Body Shop outlets and the MNS headquarters at JKR 641, Jalan Kelantan, Bukit Persekutuan, Kuala Lumpur.

The public can show its support for the six-month campaign by signing and sending these postcards.

For the Orang Asli at the Pos Chiong settlement in the Temenggor forest reserve, it is only a matter of time before their worst nightmare becomes a reality.

Heavy siltation might soon force these villagers living by their "highway", the Sara river, to trek for two days to get to Banding, the take-off point for Grik. A hassle-free journey by boat takes less than two hours.

A recent media visit found a stretch of river 2km upstream from the village so choked with silt that it was no longer navigable.

The water in the affected stretch was less than 30cm deep and one would have to walk to continue journeying upstream.

Village elder Agar Uda, 48, said they would have to walk to Banding when the situation got worse because of the logging upstream.

"What else can we do? I think we have less than six months before the siltation reaches our village," he said at the settlement.

The retired policeman said the 100-odd Orang Asli there hoped the authorities would prevent the situation from worsening.

A visit to Sungai Gadong showed that the river was blocked by logs and debris, caused by logging. And a logging trail had eroded several stretches of the riverbank.

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