Call for Immediate Moratorium on Forest Clearing in Cameron Highlands
Rampant land clearing in Cameron Highlands has been highlighted countless times by residents and media over the years. Incidences such as floods and land or mudslides are followed by blame games, flurry of statements, allocation of funds and activities by the authorities, only to quieten down until another such incident occurs. There have been many calls to control development in Cameron Highlands, strictly enforce laws, adhere to policies and guidelines and view solutions in a holistic manner. However, the issues deluging Cameron Highlands still remain, if not worsens as time passes.
Holistic solutions for sustainable development of highlands have been proposed and formulated in the past and these solutions are still applicable. In 2002, during the 8th Malaysia Plan period the Federal government with funding from UNDP formulated strategies and action plans for sustainable highlands development through the Study for the Sustainable Development of the Highlands of Peninsular Malaysia. The mid-term review of the 8th Malaysia Plan specifically mentioned that the implementation of the strategies and recommendations in the study were being coordinated and monitored by the then Cabinet Committee on the Coordination and Development on Highlands and Islands.
In recent years, the National Physical Plan-2 has spelt out measures for sustainable development of highlands. A measure specific to the Cameron Highlands-Lojing-Kinta area in the NPP-2 states that agriculture development shall only be allowed outside of forest reserves and water catchment areas. We are now preparing for the 11th Malaysia Plan, however on-the-ground implementation of the measures and recommendations proposed in the Sustainable Development of Highlands Study and the NPP-2 is extremely lacking or near non-existent. Currently, there is no one body to monitor the implementation of the measures and recommendations for sustainable highlands development at the state and local levels.
The state government plays the main role in coordinating and controlling development in Cameron Highlands. Unchecked development over the years has led to haphazard development and forest land stripped bare despite numerous calls by various parties to conserve forests to prevent calamities.
We strongly call on the state government to immediately issue a moratorium on forest clearing in Cameron Highlands. This should be followed by strict implementation of this moratorium, related policies and guidelines and enforcement of existing laws. The state government should re-evaluate Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL) which has been given in environmental sensitive areas in the highlands and restore these lands to the original form. Those who have cleared forests illegally have to be fined and made to pay for restoration of the forest. This could also serve as a deterrent. Community involvement in planning and monitoring activities is also necessary.
Deepening rivers to mitigate flood will only serve as a short term measure, if forest clearing upstream of rivers continue. Forests play a major role in preventing landslides and controlling floods. Changing climate, extreme rainfall patters and forest clearing can lead to more frequent flooding. Let us not wait for another incident and more loss of lives before acting to save the remaining forests in Cameron Highlands.
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WWF-Malaysia (World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia) was established in Malaysia in 1972. It currently runs more than 90 projects covering a diverse range of environmental conservation and protection work, from saving endangered species such as tigers and turtles, to protecting our highland forests, rivers and seas. The national conservation organization also undertakes environmental education and advocacy work to achieve its conservation goals. Its mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the nation’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. For latest news and media resources
For further information:
Saradambal Srinivasan, Land Use Policy Analyst, WWF-Malaysia (Headquarters)