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No signs of construction, only felled woods

  • The Segari Melintang forest reserve has been reduced to a "timber warehouse." Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily
  • Our attempt to reach the project sites failed because of unfamiliarity with the environment. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily
  • The SAM team trying to locate the sites of the steel and LNG projects in Tanjung Hantu. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily
  • The 1-year-old turtles are placed under observation for their growth patterns. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily
  • Turtle eggs collected by the fishermen will be sent here for hatching. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily

Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Guang Ming Daily

SERI MANJUNG, Perak -- Just as everyone is questioning the legitimacy, rationale and viability of the two projects in Tanjung Hantu, Perak, Sahabat Alam Malaysia again reveals that logging activities have been carried out even before the two projects are initiated.

Many valuable woods have been felled in large quantities that could trigger a major ecological crisis. Leopards, for example, will lose their habitat while sea turtles will stay away and fishery harvest dwindle.

Guang Ming Daily recently went with a team of SAM committee members to find out exactly what happened in Tanjung Hantu, and found evidences of logging activities but no signs showing the construction works.

Owing to the remoteness of the sites of the two factories, a four-wheel-drive was deployed but the attempt was foiled as we were unable to find the way to the proposed project sites.

It has been reported that the steel factory will be built within the forest reserve while the LNG plant is to be located within the Class 1 forest reserve. A SAM active committee has been set up to monitor the progress of these two projects which are poised to contaminate the environment and damage the delicate local ecosystem.

However, even as no traces of construction of these two plants are seen, we were shocked to find that illegal logging activities were ongoing inside Segari Melintang forest reserve.

SAM active committee member Loh Eng Soon told Guang Ming Daily these two projects are located at a concealed coastal area in Tanjung Hantu with no access to motor vehicles. No signs or hoarding have been put up either. All that we saw were lorries carrying logged wood going in and out of the area.

"As what I understand, after the steel project has been approved by the state government, the authorities have begun large scale logging activities in the area whereas the project remains stalled to date."

As for the LNG project, with only about a month to go before the construction is slated to start, the area in the vicinity has been equally destroyed and all the valuable woods inside the forest felled.

"We are not so much concerned about setting up the factories, but the large scale logging activities in the area, which will destroy the natural ecology here. The leopards will lose their natural habitat while the sea turtles will stay away from this area."

Timber warehouse

When we followed the SAM team to probe the sites of the two projects, we came to a place known as the "timber warehouse" but unfortunately the "warehouse" was already cleared by the time we arrived. No one was seen guarding the warehouse and as such, it was impossible for us to know whether the woods had come from Segari Melintang.

From the "timber warehouse" we took the 4WD to the place which we believed would lead us to the sites of the steel and LNG projects in Tanjung Hantu. The terrain along the way had been rugged, with signs of logging activities carried out all over.

We gave up after driving almost four kilometres as there were too many sidetracks and we worried we would get lost inside the jungle.

We looked around the forest but could not find any sign showing the direction to the project sites and therefore could not be sure of the actual locations of the proposed sites.

Local fishermen said they learned about the projects from TV news. Nevertheless, they could not see any construction works being carried out in the area. They were also uncertain whether logging activities were carried out there.

To our surprise, other than the proposed sites of the two projects, other areas within the forest reserve have also seen illegal logging and oil palm plantation activities.

Raping of virgin forest

According to the National Parks Act. if a forest reserve is to be developed, the government must first substitute it with another forest reserve so as to ensure that the total area of forest reserves in the country will not be reduced.

Class 1 forest reserves are not supposed to be developed at all unless a Class 1 forest reserve is downgraded to a Class 2 commercial forest. But then even a Class 2 commercial forest can only be developed for eco-tourism purposes.

Inside the logged Segari Melintang forest reserve, we found a sign that the forests here have been classified as forest reserve, high conservation value forest, virgin jungle reserve and permanent forest reserve.

Turtle breeding ground in danger of obliteration

During the breeding season, the sea turtles would normally choose a remote and sparsely populated beach to lay their eggs. About seven or eight years ago, sea turtles would come to the beach fronting the Segari Turtle Hatchery in Pantai Remis to lay their eggs. Nevertheless, with factories set up in the vicinity in recent years, sea turtles are now forced to move over to Tanjung Hantu about 7km away to lay eggs.

With the two massive industrial projects now planned for Tanjung Hantu, environmentalists are concerned that sea turtles will one day stay away from this area altogether.

Set up in 1994, the Segari Turtle Hatchery is one of the two centres in the country that allow tourists to visit freely, another one in Terengganu.

48-year-old centre employee Ramli told Guang Ming Daily the turtles would only go to a place that is quiet, uninhabited and unvisited by humans. Factories in the vicinity will not only create noise pollution, but also environmental contamination taht will put the turtles off.

"The turtles will come to Pantai Segari every year to lay eggs, especially from April to August. Fishermen with operation permits would then help the authorities collect turtle eggs and get RM2 allowance for each egg collected."

However, due to the meagre allowances and personal attitudes, only a handful of turtle eggs are collected by the fishermen.

Ramli said he had tried very hard to urge the fishermen not to disturb the turtles for personal interests lest the number of sea turtles laying eggs there would dwindle over the years.

The proposed steel and LNG plants are located very near Teluk Senangin which is famous for Treadfin harvests. The setting up of these two factories is bound to adversely affect the livelihood of local fishermen.

Stop environmental degradation

Loh Eng Soon said SAM and the Friends of Earth have never objected to industrial development provided that the factories are built at appropriate sites with environmental impact the priority consideration.

"We set up the SAM active committee in hope of preventing any activities that will degrade the environment."

Anyone keen to follow up the progress of the proposed projects in Tanjung Hantu can visit Selamatkan Teluk Rubiah.

"We will collect as much information on the steel and LNG projects as possible and submit our proposals to Perak menteri besar Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir with the hope that the authorities would halt all projects that would jeopardise the environment.

"We also plan a seminar in November to update the residents of Seri Manjung of the progress of these two projects."


The weeping turtles
No signs of construction, only felled woods
The fear of catch reduction


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