Logging trail at Ulu Muda forest sparks water shortage concern


PETALING JAYA: A new logging trail in the Ulu Muda rainforest in Kedah, which forms a critical water catchment in northern Malaysia, has reignited fears of reduced water supply to millions of consumers in the region.

The Star reported today that the trail for timber lorries extending more than 15km was found running uphill along the Ulu Muda lake, and is believed to have been used since early this year.

The daily said its survey also revealed a base site with heavy machinery and hundreds of logs stacked there.

It said a signboard at the site showed that a permit to conduct logging at several secondary roads had been issued by the Kedah Tengah District forestry officer in Sungai Petani, for the licence holder to carry out the activities from November 2 last year to May 1.

Another signboard at the site stated the licence holder as being the Perbadanan Menteri Besar Kedah (Menteri Besar Incorporated), the report said. The area is listed as 200ha with the permit valid from July 3 to Oct 4, last year.

The paper quoted Universiti Sains Malaysia water resources, hydrology and flood hazard management and climatology expert Prof Dr Chan Ngai Weng as saying that the logging activities would adversely expose the land and affect rivers in maintaining their drainage capacities.

He said the quality of the water supplied to the people in surrounding areas would also be affected. He called on the Kedah government to gazette the place as a water catchment area.

In May last year, WWF-Malaysia, which is affiliated to international conservation organisation World Wide Fund for Nature, had expressed concern following The Star’s earlier report that month highlighting logging activities within the Ulu Muda area which covers parts of Kedah and Perak.

In a statement, the NGO had described the 163,000ha Ulu Muda forest area, covering seven forest reserves, as an important catchment not only for Kedah, but also neighbouring Penang and Perlis.

It said the Ulu Muda forest functioned as the catchment for Sungai Muda which provided about 96% of Kedah’s water supply and 80% of Penang’s supply.

“Hence, the forest is of utmost importance in ensuring water security for these two northern region states,” its CEO and executive director Dionysius Sharma had said.

He noted that in 2005 the Ulu Muda catchment contributed RM157 million to Kedah and RM139 million to Penang in terms of annual water supply value for both domestic and industrial use.

He added that it also provided 32% of the water supply for the irrigation needs within the Muda Agricultural Scheme, the biggest granary area in the country.

According to the 2013 Paddy Statistics, this area supplied close to 40% of our nation’s rice production, he had said.