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A key reason cited by the Selangor government to justify its proposal to degazette a valuable forest tract in Kuala Langat district is the frequent occurrence of fires which, it claimed, has already degraded 40 percent of the forest.
Samsul Anak Senin, an Orang Asli from the Temuan ethnic group who lives in a village on the fringes of the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR), said it is hard to believe that the forest has diminished in value.
“For our community here, this forest has been the pulse of our livelihoods for hundreds of years. In fact, the quality of this 8,000-year-old forest has been well-preserved,” declared Samsul, who is the chairperson of Kampung Orang Asli Busut Baru’s community management council.
He told Bernama that the Temuan community, who lives in four villages located in the southwest of KLNFR, has been wondering why the state government labelled the forest as “degraded” when they could still forage for forest products with ease, either for their own consumption or as a source of income.
“In this forest (KLNFR), within less than half an hour, we are able to collect a variety of products… we can prove that this forest still has many natural treasures,” he added.
Samsul and his fellow villagers are worried about their fate if the Selangor government’s proposal to degazette a large chunk of KLNFR materialises.
“We will lose our livelihoods… not only that, we also risk losing our culture, handicrafts, identity and heritage,” he said, adding that all the raw materials needed to make their traditional musical instruments and blowpipes are procured from the nearby forest.
KLNFR, which is located in Mukim Tanjung 12 in Kuala Langat district in Selangor, came under scrutiny when the Selangor Forestry Department issued a notice in February last year to secure public views on a proposal to degazette the forest reserve for development purposes. So far, no decision has been made on the proposal.
KLNFR – mainly comprising peat swamps that serve as a valuable carbon sink – used to spread over 7,246.96 hectares of land. Today, only 957.63 hectares are left, out of which the state government hopes to degazette 931.17 hectares as per its proposal.
There are about 2,000 Temuan Orang Asli residing in four settlements on the fringes of KLNFR. Gifted to them by the fourth Sultan of Selangor Sultan Abdul Samad Raja Abdullah, the villages are Kampung Orang Asli Busut Baru, Pulau Kempas, Bukit Cheeding and Bukit Kemandol, located about 21 kilometres from Banting town.
Other developments have also crept onto the forest fringes, such as Gamuda Cove (in the southern part), Saujana Putra (north), ELITE highway (east), and Bukit Cheeding Estate (southwest) owned by Boh Plantations Sdn Bhd.