TBRA CALLS ON NEW CHIEF MINISTER TO MAKE PUBLIC STATE ACTION PLAN ON PAIRED ROAD PROJECTS

The Tanjung Bungah Residents Association (TBRA) calls on the newly elected Chief Minister of Penang, Chow Kon Yeow and the State Government to be fully transparent on the need for the North Coastal Paired Road (NCPR) project, the implications of this to the residents affected by the road, what alternatives were considered and deemed not feasible and how the State Action Plan addresses all the concerns of the public.

This must urgently be done prior to the commencement of any works for the NCPR.

TBRA has learnt that the State Action Plan (SAP) for the paired roads, including the NCPR, was a requirement imposed by the Department of Environment (DOE) so that the issues raised by the public would be addressed prior to the approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

TBRA urges the Chief Minister to make the SAP public so that we can assess if our concerns have been addressed effectively.

We also want to know if the SAP has addressed concerns arising from the most recent floods and landslides that occurred on Nov. 5 following heavy rains, which involved parts of the areas along the proposed NCPR road alignment in TanjungBungah.

TBRA has been raising our concerns regarding the NCPR both to the DOE and the Penang State Government previously. We had pointed out serious environmental and social impacts of the NCPR especially for thousands of residents living along the road alignment.

The EIA had revealed that about 46% of the proposed road will be on terrain with a higher than 25 degree slope, and are well known to be ‘sensitive hill lands.’

How and whether the Penang State Government and the DOE have addressed this concern is a mystery to us, that requires further clarification.

Since the Penang State Government has provided an Action Plan to the DOE, it is vital for this to be made public urgently and to seek public feedback, as this will be in line with the spirit of the State Government and the new Pakatan Manifesto for being transparent and accountable to the rakyat.

TBRA also pointed out and continues to maintain that the ‘saving’ of 14 minutes of time travelled between Tanjung Bungah and Teluk Bahang at a cost of RM 1 billion for the NCPR will soon vanish once more traffic demand is generated by the new road in the coming years.

What has also not been made clear how the State is going to disperse the traffic from the NCPR that ends in Lembah Permai inTanjung Bungah to Straits Quay.

Hence, no construction on the NCPR should commence, until our concerns have been addressed urgently and adequately.

Press Release, 18 May 2018

ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION IN THE STATE OF PERAK IS DISAPPOINTING

Forestry and Natural Protected Areas

· Excised part of Tanjung Hantu Forest Reserve (HS Tanjung Hantu) which was classified as Virgin Jungle Forest (VJR), turtle landing area and was also categorized as Environmentally Sensitive Area Rank 1, covering 56.06 hectares on 13 October 2011 for industrial purposes (LNG plant).
· Excised the entire Bikam Forest Reserve (HS Bikam) which is a habitat for a Critically Endangered (CR) species, Dipterocarpus coriaceus plant, listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).   On May 29 2013, an area covering 495.5ha was excised for agricultural purposes (cultivation of oil palm).
· In relation to the threatened critical species (CR) under the IUCN i.e. Keruing paya (Dipterocarpus coriaceus), we are concerned that another habitat of the species has been destroyed when part of the Chikus Forest Reserve (HS Chikus) covering an area of  663ha was excised on February 2, 2017 for agricultural purposes.
· Excised the entire Chior Wildlife Reserve (RHL Chior) which is the first Wildlife Reserve / protection area for big game established in Malaysia. RHL Chior is also a major habitat for large mammals especially elephants. The excision covering an area of 692.7ha on July 31, 2014 was for agricultural purposes (development of oil palm plantation).
· Changed the land-use of forest in the Permanent Reserved Forest (HSK) area for quarrying of granite. One of the cases is in Compartments 13, 14, 15 and 16 of Segari Melintang Forest Reserve (HS Segari Melintang) covering 80ha in 2017. The approval for quarrying in the HSK area is contradictory and does not comply with the resolution of the 70th Meeting of the National Land Council (Majlis Tanah Negara – MTN). The MTN had recommended that all State Governments take initiatives to control or if possible to avoid any approval of mining and quarrying activities in HSK. This is because mining and quarrying activities in HSK will directly affect the attainment of sustainable forest management that is central to the management of the nation’s forests.
· The turtle landing area in Segari is still not gazetted as a protected area (PA) but has been approved as an industrial area (iron and steel mills) and sand extraction area.
· The landing area for river terrapin (tuntung) in Bota is still not gazetted as PA and raises concern due to its proximity to several areas of river sand extraction.
· No areas covered by limestone forest are gazetted as HSK or protected areas. There is a habitat for a threatened critical species (CR) under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species i.e. Hopea bilitonensis tree at Gunung Gajah and Gunung Tempurung, Gopeng. While in the limestone hill caves there is a habitat of a rare spider,  Liphistius kanthan, which is known as living fossil. The spider has a segmented abdomen and does not resemble modern spiders.
· The HSK’s total land area in Perak in 2015 of  997,623.86ha decreased to 997,604.12ha in 2016. This is contrary to one of the main Corporate Strategies of the State Forestry Department i.e: Maintaining the area of existing Permanent Reserved Forest and increasing its breadth.

Solid Waste

· The ban on polystyrene food containers and plastic bags has yet to be implemented and enforced in the state of Perak. The ban was supposed to be implemented in June 2017.
· Continued the operation of solid waste disposal site at Teluk Mengkudu, Segari although the Department of Environment did not approve the Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) Report. The landfill is located within an Environmentally Sensitive Area.
· Management and collection of solid waste is still unsatisfactory especially in the rural areas where waste can be found dumped indiscriminately.

Urban and regional planning

· Changed zoning and land-use from tourism and natural areas (forest) e.g. part of Teluk Muroh Forest Reserve (HS Teluk Muroh) to industrial zone on 19 November 2009.
· Excised HSK area in Piah Forest Reserve (HS Piah) and Korbu Forest Reserve (HS Korbu) before holding public hearing session of the Kuala Kangsar Local Plan.
· Current land-use/zone map and land-use information in physical planning documents, namely the Ipoh Local Plan and Perak State Structure Plan do not state and indicate that there is a radioactive waste site in Lahat.
SAM hopes that actions will be taken on the issues and conflicts listed above as per the commitment made by the Perak State Authority for the well-being of the environment in the state.

Media  Statement, 3 May 2018

TRASH IN DITCH AT JALAN SUNGAI BAKAU NIBONG TEBAL, SEBERANG PERAI SELATAN

Drain at Jalan Sungai Bakau so filthy and need urgent attention from Local Council authorithy.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) urges Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai (MPSP), Irrigation and Drainage Department (DID), Health Department of Penang and other authorities to investigate and resolve the problem of polluted ditches that are filled with trash at Jalan Sungai Bakau, near Hon Seng Rice Mill Sdn Bhd.

SAM’s survey here found that the water quality in the ditch has deteriorated and it is foamy, emitting bad odour and filled with trash.  The residents nearby here are uncomfortable and concerned of the poor water quality and condition of the ditch due to possible impact to their health.  We are also concerned of the foamy waters which may be caused by effluents from commercial premises in the area.

Various waste such as polystyrene containers, plastic water bottles, plastic bags, empty cans, etc can be found in the drain in Jalan Sungai Bakau.  The trash is said to be the cause of the ditch getting clogged and water remaining stagnant.  Subsequently people are worried that it is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and if not contained it can lead to the spread of diseases.  Hence, we urge the Health Department to conduct an inspection at the area.

The drainage system filled with trash also enters the nearby oil palm smallholdings. According to residents whom we met, every time it rains, water overflows to the main road and enters their homes. They lamented that lately they rarely see the water in the ditch flowing smoothly. In fact the drainage system has become worse.

SAM urges appropriate action to be taken immediately, including the upgrading of the drainage system to ensure good quality of life and environment for the people living in this area. SAM hopes that the relevant authorities would go to the field and inspect the drainage system.

In this regard, SAM urges the concerned parties to take this matter seriously. The threat to the environment will worsen if this problem is not resolved now.

Media Statement, 26 March 2018

PROTECT CRITICAL WATER RESOURCES TO ENSURE WATER SECURITY

Protect critical water resources.

In conjunction of World Water Day, which falls on 22nd March every year, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) calls on the Malaysian government to protect critical water resources in Malaysia to ensure water security.  This requires classification of permanent reserved forests for protection purposes, proper management of wetlands in Malaysia and intensifying efforts to harvest rain-water.

This year’s theme, ‘Nature for Water’, explores nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.  The central message is that nature-based solutions such as planting trees to replenish forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, and restoring wetlands, is a sustainable and cost-effective way to help re-balance the water cycle, mitigate the effects of climate change and improve human health and livelihoods.

The Eleventh Malaysia Plan recognises forests as the nation’s natural capital due to the ecosystem services they provide.  This can be exemplified by the importance of the Forest Reserves in the Ulu Muda, Kedah which serves as an important water source for the states of Kedah, Penang and Perlis, supplying 96%, 80% and 70% of the respective states daily water needs.

When logging affects the Ulu Muda Forest Reserve (UMFR) as a water catchment area, not only economic activities in the three states are impacted, but the basic needs of water of more than 4 million people and the environment will be threatened.

A permanent reserved forest (PRF), until classified under Section 10, subsection (1) of the Forestry Act 1984 is deemed to have been classified under Setion 10(1) paragraph (a) as timber production forest under sustained yield.  Failure to classify the PRF means that States can issue permits to take forest produce from the PRF, hence threatening its ecosystem services.

In fact, the UMFR scenario where logging and mining activities have been approved, is reflective of the need for a uniform national policy to protect forests in Malaysia as national water catchment areas.

Rivers are the main raw water resources in Malaysia. In Peninsular Malaysia, the major rivers flow from the Main Range of Titiwangsa that form the backbone of the peninsula.

The major rivers that flow towards the Straits of Malacca include Sungai Muda, Sungai Perak, Sungai Bernam and Sungai Linggi, while Sungai Pahang, Sungai Rompin and Sungai Kelantan flow towards the South China Sea. The sources of all these rivers are inevitably enveloped in tropical rainforests that catch water for the rivers.

Under the Constitution, the governance and protection of the rivers, as raw water resources, come under the jurisdiction of state governments.  Classification of forests as soil protection forest, flood control forest, and water catchment forest are crucial to protect water resources.

However, when it comes to the governance and protection of the forests that catch water for the rivers, very few states have passed state enactments. In Penang, a total of 62.9 sq. km of forests have now been gazetted and protected as water catchment areas.

Other states appear to be reluctant to pass similar laws, possibly due to potential losses in revenue from premiums, royalties from logs and other forest products.

Sustainable Development Goal 6 commits the world to ensuring that everyone has access to safe water by 2030, and includes targets on protecting the natural environment and reducing pollution. Hence Malaysia’s rainforests must be protected as national raw water catchment areas to protect water supply for the people.

We thus strongly urge that the power of protecting critical water catchment areas to be brought under the Federal legislative powers as opposed to the state.  The rationale for this proposed new legislation is if the rainforests are destroyed, the rivers will eventually run dry, causing a water supply crisis. If there is a water supply crisis, it will be a national crisis that will affect millions of people and disrupt all economic activities and sustenance.

Rain water which is an accessible sustainable water resource is an important component in attaining water security.  In this context, protecting the forests, rivers and wetlands which are natural water catchments should be regarded as a national interest issue that should be acted upon immediately.

Letter to Editor, 22 March 2018