KUANTAN: The Pahang Forestry Department says it has not found evidence of any logging activity in the Lentang forest reserve as alleged to be the cause of a flow of wood debris during the recent floods.
The department said a review on the issue of timber piles in Jalan Bentong-Karak near the Karak Road Transport Department (RTD) weighing station and the Sri Telemong bridge instead found that there were two water surge incidents.
This started in the Lentang forest reserve due to heavy rain that continued for three days from Dec 16 to the day of the major flood in Bentong on Dec 18, it said.
“This is supported by rainfall data from the Bentong Irrigation and Drainage Department, which recorded an average reading of 155mm on Dec 18, where the rainfall reading is categorised as very heavy,” said the department in a statement.
It said a check at both locations found that wood debris scattered on the road and bridge were from the water surge incidents in Sungai Temeriak, Sungai Kerau and Sungai Timbul that occurred on Dec 18.
“The department has made an aerial check using a drone and found no logging activity either in the Lentang forest reserve, government land or private land in both locations.
“The department also confirms that there is no legal or illegal logging activity as alleged by the public on social media,” it said, adding that the forest reserve had been gazetted as a water catchment forest since 2002 where logging activities were not allowed at all.
In addition, a 30ha area of the forest reserve in Sungai Kerau had been plotted as a High Conservation Value Forest since 2012, where no logging activities could be carried out, said the department.
It said aerial survey also found many landslide traces in hilly areas within the Lentang forest reserve, government land and private land that carried debris consisting of soil, rocks and trees.
These drifted into Sungai Temeriak, Sungai Kerau and Sungai Timbul due to very strong water currents that hit along the route of the rivers, it said.
“The field review also discovered tree trunk and wood debris of various species, including forest, durian, rubber and palm oil trees, which gave the impression that the heavy river water currents also carried debris from outside the Lentang forest reserve.
“Further inspection found that the timber and wood debris scattered on Jalan Bentong-Karak have been moved to the road reserve area near the Karak RTD weighing station by a contractor appointed by ANIH Berhad for road cleaning work,” said the state Forestry Department.
Environmental activist Khaidir Ahmad recently alleged that a flood of timber debris in Telemong was due to land clearing activities for illegal Musang King durian plantations in the area.
The department said evidence of the water surge incidents was supported by witnesses, namely the operator of Resort Shilinmen Karak and the villagers of Sri Telemong who saw the water surge carrying mud and wood debris as high as a two-storey building.
“The department also confirms that the water surge incidents in the two locations have nothing to do with logging activities on the Sungai Gapoi government land as alleged, as the distance of this area is 16km from the Sri Telemong Bridge and 23km from Jalan Bentong-Karak near the Karak RTD weighing station,” it said, adding that a survey at the location found that the water of Sungai Gapoi was clear and there were no traces of water surge.
The department said the phenomenon was almost similar to what happened in the Gunung Jerai forest reserve in Kedah in August.
“The department will take further action to ensure that the wood debris in these rivers are removed immediately and disposed of in accordance with the provisions of the National Forestry Act 1984.
“Further surveys by helicopter will also be conducted in early January 2022 to get a clearer picture of the issue and the location of the water surge incident in the Lentang forest reserve,” it said.
The department proposed that the uncultivated government land area bordering the forest reserve at those rivers, especially in the disaster-stricken areas and around the Lentang forest reserve in general, be gazetted as a permanent forest reserve.
It said this was so that rehabilitation works such as reforestation could be carried out to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.
“The department recommends the implementation of a river buffer zone compliance enforcement along rivers developed by agencies, companies or the public to prevent more serious erosion in the future,” it said.