TheStar 28 July 2010 Stuart Michael
FOUR excavators were seized and five people questioned during a raid by the Hulu Selangor Forestry Department at the Raja Musa Forest Reserve yesterday. The machinery were seized for encroaching into a forest reserve and for not having any documentation. The department’s district forest officer, Abd Ramlizauyahhudin Mahli, said eight more excavators were still inside the forest reserve. “We have stationed our men at the site to locate the eight excavators and operators. The forest reserve is a huge area and we only found out about the encroachment last month.
“These excavators were clearing the undergrowth along the bank of Sungai Tengi when they were caught by our officers,” he said. It is believed that they have encroached 16km along the Sungai Tengi. “We are still investigating and waiting to see documents from the operators,” said Abd Ramli. He warned that those encoraching into the forest would be dealt with. “We have to protect our state heritage and the environment for the future generation. If everyone keeps doing this, we will not have forests in the near future,’’ he said.
Under Section 47 (1) of the National Forestry Act 1984 (Amendment 1993), those entering the forest can be fined RM10,000 or jailed three years or both. When asked to comment on the raid, state environment committee chairman Elizabeth Wong replied through SMS to wait until the operations were completed at the end of the week. It was discovered recently that 500ha of the forest has been cleared and burnt for large-scale farming. At the end of 2008, the forestry department ordered the eviction of the illegal occupants and started clearing all vegetation and agricultural activities in the area. Access roads were cut off to prevent entry to the area and all the illegal settlers were evicted from the forest reserve.
Since then, the department together with various non-governmental organisations have made efforts to save the 23,000ha peat swamp forest reserve. The rehabilitation of the forest includes replanting seedlings indigenous to the peat swamp.