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Saving our rainforests should be a non-political matter

Source:  Copyright 2011, Malaysiakini
Date:  September 28, 2011
Original URL: Status DEAD


I refer to Foon Weng Lian's letter Stop clearing at Belum Temengor Forest Reserve which deserves serious consideration and much community support.

Efforts to save our endangered rainforests should be a non-political matter supported by all who love their country and want to stop the wanton destruction of the country's fast-disappearing rainforests.

Even if you need to transform rainforests into oil palm plantations could they not even spare the giant trees?

Some time ago a Swiss friend introduced me to the excellent Belum Eco Rainforest Resort, a tiny island run by a dedicated nature lover, Steve Khong, who knows the region well and facilitates scientists and nature lovers trying to enhance the place.

I was told there is a stretch of water 75km long and this man-made network of freshwater lakes with its clear water is only marred by the drowned and dead tree trunks that stand out from the surface of the water like tombstones that bear testimony to the demise of a once pristine rainforest.

This rainforest region despite drowned in and transformed by water has much eco-tourism potential and needs better protection from the few commercial activities especially the logging allowed to happen there.

From the coign of the small resort's balcony I had a panoramic view of the rainforest surroundings but soon realised something drastically wrong.

The landscape was verdant but tragically missing were the usually visible elegant tall straight trunks of trees and their impressive canopies that characterise a tropical rainforest.

The tall trees had obviously been logged and stumps lie where the entire trees once stood near others buried in water or logged before and after the inundation.

I felt sad because a rainforest without the old tall giant trees is like a tiger without its stripes or a seladang without its horns or a tropical sky without clouds.

A rainforest without tall giant trees does not look right though the renewed luxuriant groundcover may shelter more wildlife.

Secondary rainforests cannot compare with the real thing the original untouched virgin primary jungle.

It takes hundreds of years for rainforest giant trees to reach their maximal heights and they provide the habitats for the flora and fauna that make up the unique eco-diversity and wildlife of the rainforests.

They provide the natural equilibrium in the eco-system that facilitates the bio-diversity we have yet to fully understand.

Every now and then the media highlights the plight of the rainforests and their wildlife but meanwhile the trees are logged and the wildlife poached.

Until the government takes a stronger stance and stops all logging of the giant trees there is no hope for the giant trees in the Temengor area.

Other activities in the area need serious monitoring such as the spoilt sewerage system of an eco-resort in a part of Temengor that sees raw sewerage flow into the stream and into the lake where debris from logging activities turn the lake into a swamp-like place during the dry season.

Then there is the fish farm which has thousands of fish in the water but what happens to their waste?

The Orang Asli settlements still do not have decent sewerage and where do all their excrements and rubbish go?

The Belum-Temengor areas are reserves but reserved for who or what? It is not a disused mining pond but a pristine water catchment and nature reserve. It even has a royal name Royal Belum but where is the royal treatment?

Are Malaysians even aware of the existence of the reserves let alone be alarmed by the silent desecration of this region?

The potential for eco-tourism is huge but any visitor to the area will be shocked to see the ugly giant barges that ply the waters carrying giant logs from the interior to the road where lorries cart them away day and night.

It is shocking almost sacrilegious for the authorities to allow the desecration of the lake by the logging activity which apparently when I visited left debris all over the banks of their depot which also has workers' quarters.

If someone were to pillage their country's sacred treasures people would be up in arms.

Yet because the logging of giant trees is unseen and virtually undiscovered and probably unchecked, most Malaysians still do not know about the rapid loss of their priceless natural heritage.

Norway paid Indonesia a billion dollars to not log their rainforests.

Yet Al Jazeera reported recently about the renegades who still open up tracts of rainforests for gold-mining and other commercial activities.

Corruption was behind the betrayal and is this also the problem in Malaysia?

Many don't realise that secondary rainforests are not the same as primary rainforests which have irreplaceable bio-diversities and still keep a pharmacological treasury of undiscovered cures for human diseases and food sources.

The rainforests hold a greater value for eco-tourism and this is proven by the success of places such as Pemberton in Western Australia where people flock to see an old giant karri tree or the giant trees at Yellowstone National Park, not to mention the famous sequoia giants.

The Malaysian tualang tree is among the world's tallest giant trees that are home to the giant rock bees that produce the sought-after honey collected by Orang Asli but I was told one giant tree was felled near Lake Pedu.

Until the government and citizens appreciate their natural heritage the loggers will continue to ransack the rainforests unstopped and probably unstoppable because of their political connections.

Only the people supported by the politicians and vice versa stand a chance of stopping the renegades who rape the rainforests.

Malaysia needs to get serious about crimes against nature and especially stop those who use their political connections to exploit the rainforests and rob the people of nature's legacy through illegal or approved logging.

There should be an immediate stop to logging in rainforests.

There is no such thing as sustainable logging.

It is a myth and a lie because once you chop down a giant tree that has taken several generations to grow you cannot replace it.

Giant trees didn't grow up for logging but to provide the equilibrium for nature in the rainforests that are disappearing fast.

The Belum/Temengor reserves are priceless jewels in the crown of Perak's nature wonderlands and are home to the famous rafflesia flowers and the country's entire range of hornbills that can be seen in the hundreds during the early morning.

A group like Malaysian Nature Society has highlighted the plight of the Belum/Temengor reserves and more needs to be done by those who have the political clout to stop the destruction of the trees and rainforests.

I hope Malaysians will be more forthcoming in their care for their natural heritage, not only the wildlife but the irreplaceable giant trees and rainforests without which wildlife will not survive.

The area is also home to tigers and wild elephants can be seen crossing the lakes and foraging among the trees and road signs warn of their presence where long grass grow by the roadsides.

People take pains to protest in the streets against the violation of their electoral rights and I hope their collective concern will focus on the alarming rate of destruction of their rainforests that takes place in remote places and see them protesting more visibly against the wanton logging taking place every day.

Our protests should not become clichés fallen on deaf ears but must awaken the government and citizens to save the remnants of rainforests which once lost can never be replaced.

The Swiss Bruno Manser lost his life protecting the rainforests and the customary rights of the Penans to their land.

What will we do to do our part?

If we are upset over the treachery in giving foreigners citizenship illegally we should be upset that our giant trees are being logged and concessions are given without the slightest concern for the dwindling giant trees that are an integral part of the rainforests.

The betrayal against the country's priceless rainforests in allowing the giant trees to be felled is scandalous and must be stopped before all is lost.

The plight of the rainforests is a worthy cause that should prick the conscience of every Malaysian even those who destroy the giant trees.

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