PETALING JAYA: An environmental organisation has taken the Selangor government to task over a proposed housing project in Gombak which will see forest reserve land de-gazetted for construction.
The 28.3ha project by the Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS) on Bukit Lagong forest reserve land was approved in 2003. However, no work was done after that.
Malaysian Nature Society senior adviser Salleh Mohd Nor said he did not agree with the replacement concept under which another plot of land is gazetted to substitute the land to be used.
“If they wanted to do this, why didn’t they do it back then? Why wait until now? Why the insistence on de-gazetting the forest reserve?” he told FMT.
Selangor Environment, Green Technology and Consumer Affairs Committee chairman Hee Loy Sian previously said that replacement forest land had been located in Semenyih, below Broga Hill.
Adding that this plot was much larger than the one in Bukit Lagong, he said it was already a forested area and would be gazetted as a forest reserve.
However, Salleh questioned the point of this, saying Broga was not a focal area for housing.
“There are a lot of abandoned houses, and demand there is less compared to Bukit Lagong.”
He added that this would be the fourth time the Selangor government is holding a public hearing on the de-gazettement of a forest reserve since the Public Inquiry (Selangor) Rules 2014 were put in place.
In 2014, a hearing was held on the de-gazettement of 106.65ha of the Ampang Forest Reserve for construction of the East Klang Valley Expressway.
In 2016, meanwhile, two hearings were held on the proposals to de-gazette 30ha of the Sungai Puteh North and South forest reserves, and 3.4ha of the Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve for the Damansara-Shah Alam Elevated Expressway project.
Salleh, who is former director of the Forest Research Institute, said information on de-gazettement exercises often reached the public too late for objections.
“By the time you get the information, it is past the planning stage and too late,” he said, adding that public hearings were “just formalities”.
He also claimed that the Ampang forest reserve land had yet to be replaced.
Residents of Taman Amansiara in the vicinity have objected to the PKNS project, fearing a repeat of the November 2009 landslide which brought down tonnes of earth along an 80m stretch of Jalan Rawang, cutting off northbound traffic for a month.
Environmentalists have also urged PKNS to move the project to another location with acute housing needs.
Salleh meanwhile questioned the 16 years of inactivity since the housing project was approved. He added that half the houses in Taman Amansiara were now empty.
“People have shifted out because some of their houses are cracking due to the units being built on a steep slope. The soil is unstable.
“And now they want to build some more houses next to it?”