Source: The Choice
Despite an aerial survey that found rampant jungle clearing, hill cutting and river pollution in the Lojing Highlands, the PAS-led Kelantan state government claims that the area has not been logged since 1990.
Everything that is wrong with Pakatan Rakyat’s rule in the state, it seems, can conveniently be blamed on the previous Barisan Nasional government.
Last year, with people in Kelantan still getting dirty piped water, contaminated with dangerous metals and bacteria, Menteri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat had reacted by saying, “What to do? The water is already contaminated.”
But with PAS ruling the state for over 20 years, his apathy to the environment could result in voters turning against the Islamist party.
According a New Straits Times report, huge swathes of the Lojing Highlands have been stripped bare of trees, and there are signs that the clearings had taken place just recently.
“Rivers are clogged with earth and the once clear waters are now the colour of teh tarik.
Frustratingly, despite concerns over the potential of irreversible environmental damage in the area, the Kelantan government has brushed aside these ‘unfounded’ fears, and labelled them as nothing more than just a ‘misunderstanding’,” the newspaper reported.
State Islamic Development, Education and Dakwah Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah admitted that land in Lojing was being cleared to make way for farms and mixed-development projects. But he denied that any logging was taking place.
“There is no logging being done in Lojing as claimed by the media because there is no timber left there. The area was logged out even before we (PAS) came to power in 1990,” he claimed.
“There are only bamboo and small trees left and they were cleared as the area is being developed to be planted with oil palm and rubber trees,” Amar told NST.
Yet contrary to his claims, the newspaper found clear signs of hill cutting and land clearing being carried out in the area.
“Bulldozers could be seen clearing the hillslopes and there were also signs of recent landslides which occurred close to the Gua Musang highway,” it reported.
There are questions being asked of the PAS-led government’s plans for the area. According to Amar, the state government had given land in Gua Musang and Lojing to state agencies, such as Kelantan State Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), Kelantan Islamic Foundation (YIK) and Kelantan Darulnaim Foundation (YAKIN), which later leased these to a few companies, and the projects started “a few years ago”.
He claimed that development was needed in the area as Lojing was located on high land and bordered Cameron Highlands.
“For Gua Musang, the setting up of the new town will boost tourism in the vicinity,” declared the State Islamic Development, Education and Dakwah Committee chairman.
He said the PAS-led government was constructing two new towns in Sigar and Pos Brooke, and plans have also been drawn up for resorts in the vicinity.
But when it came to the signs of illegal logging seen in Lojing, Amar tried to evade the issue. He claimed that NST might have fallen prey to a “misunderstanding”, and the logging could have been taking place at another area near Gua Musang.
“In Gua Musang, there are (a) few projects that the state government had carried out and they include those set aside for the ‘Ladang Rakyat Projek’,” he said, not very convincingly perhaps.
State Deputy Forestry director (development division) Mohd Fauzi Abu Bakar naturally agreed with Amar, claiming that his department had yet to receive any reports of illegal logging.
That doesn’t necessarily mean, of course, that illegal logging is not taking place. It only means that state authorities have not noticed the clear signs, or even worse, have turned a blind eye in their quest for “tourism” money.
Whatever the reason, this media report show that all is not well in Kelantan. PAS itself has never made environmental issues a priority.
In Kedah, another PAS-ruled state, Menteri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak created a controversy last year with his plan to clear some of the state’s forests and make logging a major source of income.
The Star had published an exclusive report in July on the growing outrage over Azizan’s plan to allegedly clear some of the state’s forests for a “people’s estates” rubber plantation programme.
The targeted area was reportedly covered by virgin forests with centuries-old trees. The newspaper said that villagers have protested against the scheme, and environmentalists have dismissed the Pakatan plan as a facade for logging. Sounds familiar?
Perhaps Nik Aziz is taking a leaf out of Azizan’s book.