Forest Plantations: None in Lentang Forest Reserve, regular inspections on existing ones

09 Jan 2022 08:17am
Pahang's Tembeling River and surrounding jungle, on a stormy day, in Taman Negara Malaysia. (For illustrative purposes only. Source: 123rf)
Pahang's Tembeling River and surrounding jungle, on a stormy day, in Taman Negara Malaysia. (For illustrative purposes only. Source: 123rf)
SHAH ALAM - There are no forest plantation activities in Lentang Forest Reserve, a government land and alienated land near Jalan Bentong-Karak and the Sri Telemong Bridge in Bentong.

However, Pahang Forestry Department director Datuk Dr Mohd Hizamri Mohd Yasin said the plantation programme was located “all over Pahang” except for protected forests and water catchment forests.

He said this following a report by Sinar Daily quoting Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh saying that the forestry director wasn’t “exactly lying” when he said there were no logging activities happening in the area.

She had said the “woody-debris” flood was likely due to the change of status from normal forest reserve to forest plantation, which according to the law, allows license holders to chop down trees for the purpose of forest cleaning.

She also said this change of status was mere trick for companies to take the timber without a proper logging license.

This, she said, was evident in some cases were the forest plantation projects land were left abandoned after it has been fully cleared.

Fuziah asked the state government to disclose the number of forest plantations projects in Pahang.

Hizamri admitted that there were cases of land abandonment.

He said companies who failed to carry out the replantation programme had their license revoked and the land was taken back by the state government.
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He also said that the state government has continuously carried out inspections and audit on forest plantation lands and will continue doing so to ensure companies adhere to the project requirements.

When asked if Pahang will impose a 15-year moratorium on approvals for new forest plantations in permanent forest reserves in the peninsula as announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob last month, Hizamri said the state government has not made any decisions on the matter.

He said anything involving the land and forest within state borders was the state’s jurisdiction thus they had the choice of whether to follow suit or not.

The moratorium was decided by the National Land Council.

Ismail, in his speech during the virtual 79th National Land Council meeting on Dec 2, 2021, had said that before the moratorium was imposed in permanent forests, state governments wishing to continue the development of forest plantations must conduct detailed consultation with the Energy and Natural Resources Ministry to ensure that the companies appointed comply with all conditions set out in their concession agreement and other relevant legislation.

“The decision to impose a moratorium was only decided last month thus the state government has yet to decide on the next course of action.

“However, since then, we have not approved any applications for the forest plantation programme.

“It should be noted that we have cancelled about 23 hectares of land for forest plantation in 2021,” Hizamri told Sinar Daily.

He added that they will carry out a meeting with land council members, the Prime Minister and Pahang Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail.

Hizamri said he did not have the success rate of the forest plantation programme as it was operated by private companies but there are plans to sit down with them and look into this matter.

The establishment of large scale forest plantations in Malaysia was to alleviate the pressure on the country’s natural forests. Based on the study’s recommendations, Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry had set a target to establish 375,000 ha of forest plantations by 2020. The target is to plant 25,000 hectares of forest plantations per year for 15 years, starting from 2005.

The council said the first forest plantation projects was due to mature in 2021 and are located in Kelantan, Pahang, Selangor and Sarawak with an expected yield of 3.78 million m³ of logs.

Meanwhile, the council meeting last month also agreed that amendments to Sections 11 and 12 of the National Forestry Act 1984 will be tabled during the first parliament meeting of 2022.

Ismail Sabri had said that its application, however, will depend on states amending relevant local laws.

It was also decided that all state government must enact legislation to punish illegal exploration of permanent forest reserves by June 1 this year.

Ismail Sabri added that there were currently 127,050.25 heaters of forest plantation development zones in permanent forest reserves in the country yet to be allocated to any company use.

On Jan 2, Pahang issued a temporary halt on logging in the state due to the floods during the current monsoon season.

In a notice by Hizamri, it said that a stop-work order on all logging-related activities in the state starts Jan 3 until further notice.

He said action will be taken against licence holders found violating this order and can be charged under the National Forestry Act 1984.