By Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 20 Oct 2020
While Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, head of the Pakatan Harapan coalition is busy trying to convince the country that he has the majority in Parliament to become the next Prime Minister, the citizens of PH-run Selangor would rather he resolves two pressing issues, namely, the never-ending water pollution in the state and the Menteri Besar’s proposed degazettement of the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve.
The Never-ending pollution of Selangor water sources
The contamination of Sungai Selangor affecting the water supply of more than one million consumers in more than a thousand areas in the Klang Valley is but the latest water pollution scandal in a series of such pollution since the PH government took office in 2008. The enforcement agencies, local authorities, and state officials have continued to allow illegal factories to operate in these river buffer zones while the water polluters have managed to get away with their wanton acts.
Even if the Menteri Besar and his cabinet resign, as accountable elected officials do elsewhere, the water “problem” will remain unresolved. What is urgently and importantly required is a coordinated holistic vision with evidence and action from the top leadership of Pakatan Harapan that they are serious about protecting and conserving our water resources in the country.
Such a vision has to be comprehensive in nature and address root cause issues, namely clearing all factories from river buffer zones, and reforesting watersheds, implementing proper waste disposal strategies and demonstrating in multiple natural and innovative ways how to respectfully manage finite water resources. And no, Prime Minister, we do not need to extract ground water!
The proposed de-gazettement of the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR)
The proposed de-gazettement and development of the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve by Menteri Besar Incorporated is the litmus test of Pakatan Harapan’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on reduction of greenhouse gases and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The peatland forest is reputed to be the best carbon sink on the planet, and it would be sacrilege to destroy what is left of the Kuala Langat forest reserve including its critically endangered species. The proposed de-gazettement of KLFRN violates the national plan to maintain our existing forest area, the Selangor Structure Plan 2035 as well as the Kuala Langat Local Plan 2030.
Concerned NGOs expect the head of Pakatan Harapan, DSAI to oppose this de-gazettement of KLNFR and to state his stand on the proposed destruction of more than 900 hectares of peat swamp forest reserve which will affect the lives of some 2000 Temuan Orang Asli in the area. The Menteri Besar of Selangor has been carrying out town hall meetings which concerned NGOs have found to be merely cosmetic exercises. We have no faith in the Selangor MB on this issue since it was MB Inc that applied for the de-gazettement in the first place and the MB himself sits on the decision-making committee.
We want to remind Pakatan Harapan that they need to be more progressive than the British colonial power that gazetted the KLFNR in 1927 and show a real commitment to transparency, accountability and public participation if they are truly different from the ruling coalition.