The Coalition for the Protection of Selangor’s Forests of which SAM is a part of, released the following statement against the conversion and clearance of 2,400 acres (970 hectares) of land in the Sungai Panjang sub district in Sabak Bernam, Selangor.
The Coalition for the Protection of Selangor Forests calls for an immediate stop to the clearance of 2,400 acres of peat swamp forest in Sabak Bernam District by the Selangor State Agriculture Corporation (PKPS). These forests are an integral component of the globally significant North Selangor Peat Swamp Forest.
PKPS is planning to clear and drain nearly 1,000 ha of peat swamp forest, which is a critical habitat for rare wildlife and fish species found nowhere else on the planet. Logging and clearance of the forest is already underway, even though no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report has been prepared.
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study is mandatory under the EIA Order 2015 for all projects proposing to clear and drain more than 20ha of peat swamp forest for agriculture or other uses. It is understood that PKPS earlier planned to develop the site for oil palm cultivation, but abandoned the project when it was told that the national policy does not allow development of oil palm on peatland or forest. The project has now been repackaged as “Selangor Smart Agro Park (SSAP)” and will still involve a palm oil mill but will plant coconut palms to exploit a loophole in the national policy. PKPS started preparing an EIA for the earlier oil palm project but abandoned it when it changed the project type – even though an EIA is mandatory for all agriculture schemes /projects larger than 20 ha, in peat swamp forests.
The proposed site is of global significance for the peatland biodiversity with a unique ecosystem that harbours many globally near threatened (NT), Vulnerable (V) and endangered (EN) species. This area is:
- Dominated by trees with a diameter of more than 20-30 cm as well as large trees with a diameter of more than 50cm such as Macarangga pruinosa., Cinnamomum spp.(Medang), Shorea uliginosa. (Meranti bakau), Cratoxylum spp (Geronggang). and Palaquium spp.(Nyatoh) – most of which are peat swamp species with restricted distribution;
- Home of many rare mammals including Panther Panthera pardus (V), Sunbear Helarctos malayanus (V), Tapir Tapirus indicus (EN);
- A key habitat for hornbills and many other endangered bird species which are breeding residents, including endangered species;
- Home to various endangered species of blackwater fish (with some found nowhere else in the world) such as Encheloclarias curtisoma (EN), Betta hipposideros (EN), Betta livida (EN), Parosphromenus harveyi (EN)], Parakysis verruscosus (V), Bihunichthys monopteroides (V), Clarias microcephalus (NT) and Trichopodus leerii (NT).
This area has been designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) under the National Physical Plan 3 (2016-2020). On top of that, the area is specified for protection under the Selangor State Structure Plan 2035.
This peatland area is of critical importance for carbon storage with an average peat depth of 6 meters storing more than 3 million tons of carbon (C) equivalent to 12 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) worth a minimum of RM240 million. In view of this, efforts should be initiated to secure national and international funding to protect the peatlands in order to meet the Malaysia’s international obligations under the Paris Agreement as well as to address global climate change.
The drainage of the site will lead to peat subsidence that will also increase the flood risk along the Tanjung Malim to Sabak Bernam road and in the adjacent oil palm estates of PKPS. It will also lead to significant increase in peatland fire risks and degradation of the adjacent Sungai Karang Forest Reserve, another ESA.
Conversion of intact peat swamp forest into agriculture is not in line with the clearly stated policy of the Government of Malaysia to conserve all the remaining intact peat swamp forests. It is also not in line with our National Action Plan on Peatland (2011-2020) or National Biodiversity Policy (2016-2025). Continuing the development of a palm oil mill and agriculture will further jeopardise the reputation of Malaysian palm oil and agricultural industries.
Further, we recall that the Selangor Menteri Besar (Chairman of PKPS) announced in his press statement on 20th February 2020 that exactly the same area would be gazetted as an extension to the Sungai Karang Forest Reserve to protect it for a long term. Why is the state going back on their words?
We therefore call for an immediate halt to the development and clearance of the peat swamp forest area, pending a full review of the project and preparation of an EIA.
The area that is being cleared is in a good condition and intact with natural vegetation in lowland tropical peat swamp forest
Sites 1 and 2 as shown below
Site 1 area being cleared (3°39’22.20″N, 101°19’33.02″E)
Site 2 area being cleared with construction of four roads and drains and clearance of high quality forest (3°41’45.18″N, 101°13’26.99″E )
About the Coalition for the Protection of Selangor’s Forests
The coalition of seven environmental organisations was formed due to our concern that Selangor is going to lose a very important peat swamp forest reserve that is rich in biodiversity and home to indigenous communities. The coalition advocates for the protection and conservation of forests in Selangor by working abreast with alliances, allies and networks to highlight the global importance of forest ecosystems and biodiversity for climate control and natural sustainability. The coalition also promotes respect for the rights and identity of indigenous communities that have been coexisting with the forests in Malaysia.
For more info about the Coalition, visit:
Members of the Coalition are:
- Center for Orang Asli Concerns Malaysia (COAC)
- Global Environment Centre (GEC)
- GRASS Malaysia
- Persatuan Aktivis Sahabat Alam (KUASA)
- Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)
- Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)
- Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES)
For more information or media enquiries, please contact:
Global Environment Centre (GEC):
Nagarajan Rengasamy – firstname.lastname@example.org | Tel: 012-296 8434
Adelaine – email@example.com | Tel: 012 2393 2983
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM):
Mageswari Sangaralingam – firstname.lastname@example.org | Tel: 012 878 2706
Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES):
Leela Panikkar – email@example.com | Tel: 012 391 2521