Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)’s prior case study concurs with the special report entitled “‘Hutan Simpan Kekal Piah dirobek’’ published by a local Malay daily on March 28, 2016.
However, SAM would like to share some facts so that readers are not confused of the meaning and interpretation of Permanent Reserved Forest (PRF) and Forest Reserve.
PRF is a status of land area gazetted under Section 7 of the National Forestry Act, 1984 (Act 313), and according to the same Act, “Permanent Reserved Forest” means any land constituted or deemed to have been constituted a permanent reserved forest under this Act.Piah Forest Reserve (Hutan Simpan (HS) Piah) is the official name of one of the PRFs that has been established.
The special report stated that HS Piah was gazetted in 2013, covering an area of 5,018 hectares, whereas according to records, the Forest Reserve has been gazetted since January 29, 1915 (Gazette No: 164).
SAM’s case study and documentation indicates that there is no increase in acreage of HS Piah (original area is approximately 79,596 hectares) as specified but instead found that the Forest Reserve had been partially repealed from time to time.
The overall area of HS Piah on December 31, 2003 was 76,158 hectares and then dwindled to 74,233.81 hectares on December 31, 2013. At present the area covering HS Piah has been further reduced because on March 20, 2014, an area covering 994 hectares had been excised whilst another 1,150.55 hectares was excised on July 31, 2014.
Of the entire HS Piah covering approximately 72,089.26 hectares only 17,107.00 hectares is classified as water catchment forest under Section 10(1)(e), the National Forestry Act, 1984 (Act 313) and the remaining area of approximately 54,982.26 hectares is classified as timber production forest under sustained yield under Section 10(1)(a), of the same Act.
Previously HS Piah was also gazetted and classified as Virgin Jungle Reserved (VJR) forest in accordance with Section 10(1)(g), the National Forestry Act, 1984 (Act 313) but has been excised.
In fact, from an area of approximately 54,982.26 hectares classified as timber production forest under sustained yield there are also some areas that are being or proposed to be exploited for conversion to monoculture plantations or what is known as forest plantations and for quarrying.
Because HS Piah is located in the Central Forest Spine “Titiwangsa Range” forest complex it is one of the major wildlife corridors in Peninsular Malaysia.
HS Piah connects with HS Air Cepam and HS Temenggor in the north and connects with HS Korbu in the south, while in the east the forest reserve connects with HS Perias in Kelantan.
Previously HS Piah was also connected with Chior Wildlife Reserve (the first Wildlife Reserve established in Malaysia) at the southern part but this Wildlife Reserve was excised entirely causing wildlife here to migrate to a nearby habitat, notably HS Piah.
But in recent years, HS Piah has been exploited by uncontrolled logging and deforestation because part of the forest reserve was excised (fragmented) and converted for development of monoculture plantations.
When a permanent reserved forest is excised and the forest reserve is converted to develop monoculture plantations, the original forest cover will be logged through clear-cutting.
Clear-cut harvesting activities are not subject to ‘sustainable forest management’, Annual Felling Ratio (CTT) and Malaysia Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management (MC & I) certification.
All parties must understand that when a forest area, primarily those that are protected and have ‘security of tenure’, is exploited by uncontrolled logging and deforestation, it will affect forest resources and services.
Therefore the relevant Authority must manage HS Piah in a balanced manner and maintain the existing area so that all parties will benefit from forest resources and services, either directly or indirectly.
S.M. MOHAMED IDRIS